- Having, exhibiting, or otherwise characterized by bravery, determination, or chivalry, especially in response to danger or challenge
- A person who shows or possesses boldness, valor, and strength of character
Valiant is a word used to characterize someone or something as having a notable amount of boldness, resolve, and moral fiber. For many, these words bring to mind an image of brave soldiers protecting our freedoms or - especially to readers of medieval history - armored knights on horseback charging into battles to protect the honor of their benefactors. Such scenes would be accurate depictions of the connotations that usually come with the word valiant, as it is most commonly applied to people when they must respond to a momentous challenge or risk. As a result, the actions or decisions of a valiant person are understood to be the result of heroic effort and strength of character, making him or her someone to be congratulated and respected. Similarly, valiant is sometimes used (relatively infrequently) as a noun that portrays a person with these noble, knight-like qualities.
Valiant can also just as easily describe a specific undertaking or event; in fact, this usage is much more common (who has the energy to be heroic all the time?). When used to describe a specific action or object, valiant implies a sense of special effort or valor that stands out against the backdrop of ordinary life. Taking out the trash is usually nothing special, but if doing so leads to fighting off a rabid raccoon - well then, good sir, that is indeed valiant!
Example: On Memorial Day, Americans remember the sacrifice of valiant military service members and their families.
Example: Deciding to face his fear of heights head-on, Moe completed a valiant ascent to the top of the lighthouse.
Example: Thanks to a valiant leap over three rows of seats, Lisa managed to obtain a foul-ball to give to her young son as a souvenir.
Example: Once believed to be a valiant in the cycling world, Lance Armstrong's achievements have been called into question as a result of his connections to performance-enhancing drug use.
Valiantly is the adverb form of the word valiant; it is used to describe an action as requiring or being the result of bravery or personal strength.
Example: Every Thanksgiving, Joey held his breath and valiantly ate Aunt Rosie's turkey.
Example: What is a lexicographer to do but valiantly keep compiling words?
Valiance (and its derivative word valiancy) is formed from similar roots and has an almost identical meaning to valiant; however, the words are distinct, and valiance is almost never used in ordinary conversation. English has its intrigue - under the surface of everyday conversation is an ocean of odd, practically-forgotten words like this.
The pedigree of valiant can be traced back to the Latin verb valere, which means "be strong," "be healthy," "be powerful," and other such qualities associated with good physical or social status. The word evolved in Old French to become vaillant, a term that meant "worthy," "strong," or "brave," and from here it would eventually make its transition into Middle English. Valiant would appear in the twelfth century as an addition to the surnames of men whose feats merited such recognition, and by the fourteenth century it had taken on its more familiar adjectival form.
From William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar:
Caesar: Cowards die many times before their deaths; / The valiant never taste of death but once.
Here, Caesar is expressing that those who face up to hardships directly truly live, while those who allow themselves to be ruled by fear will inevitably suffer ignominy. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to him, he will shortly have to face his own fate.
- Be valiant on Valentine's Day and fight for that table in her favorite restaurant.
Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of valiant. Did you use valiant in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.