in: Character, Featured, Knowledge of Men

• Last updated: December 15, 2022

The 54 Best Quotes on Courage

Have you ever wondered why it is that being called a coward is considered such a grave insult? It’s because courage is the lynchpin of character — that which makes possible every single one of its other dimensions; as Samuel Johnson once said (and Winston Churchill later paraphrased): “courage is reckoned the greatest of all virtues; because, unless a man has that virtue, he has no security for preserving any other.”

The exercise of any virtue requires the capacity to endure hardship, conquer fear and temptation, choose the riskier and more strenuous path when you’d rather take the easier way out — and this capacity is enabled by courage. Without courage, it’s impossible to be disciplined, honest, chaste, patient, self-reliant, compassionate, or resolute. Without courage, it’s impossible to be anything other than a non-entity.

While few of us are called to charge into battle these days, we all still need an ample arsenal of courage to stand up for those we love, defend unpopular beliefs, take professional and creative risks, and continue to choose the good, true, and honorable in a world where it can be hard to keep carrying the fire. And as Theodore Roosevelt observed, it is only by exercising courage in these smaller ways, that we’ll be able to summon it in more dramatic fashion should a true crisis arise.

If your heart could use strengthening, below we present 54 of the best quotes about courage ever spoken and set down. While we did our best to vet them, and successfully confirmed the accuracy and authorship of 90%+ of them, we drew many from old books from the 19th century, which didn’t include the quote’s original source, and used obscure translations of foreign/ancient texts that make the tracing of its origin difficult. But if the province of a few of the quotes is shadowy, the truth behind all of them is sound. Read them over, commit some to memory, write one down you particularly like and stick it to your bathroom mirror. And then go forth with greater fortitude to face life’s challenges.

Fortune favors the bold!

“The conscience of every man recognizes courage as the foundation of manliness, and manliness as the perfection of human character.”
Thomas Hughes

“Without courage there cannot be truth, and without truth there can be no other virtue.”
Sir Walter Scott

“Courage charms us, because it indicates that a man loves an idea better than all things in the world, that he is thinking neither of his bed, nor his dinner, nor his money, but will venture all to put in act the invisible thought of his mind.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We have more respect for a man who robs boldly on the highway, than for a fellow who jumps out of a ditch, and knocks you down behind your back. Courage is a quality so necessary for maintaining virtue, that it is always respected even when it is associated with vice.”
Samuel Johnson

“A man without courage is a knife without an edge.”

“Courage consists, not in blindly overlooking danger, but in seeing and conquering it.”
Jean Paul

“All brave men love; for he only is brave who has affections to fight for.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Fortitude is the guard and support of the other virtues.”
John Locke

“It is an error to suppose that courage means courage in everything. Most people are brave only in the dangers to which they accustom themselves.”
Edward Bulwer-Lytton

“A man without courage is to me the most despicable thing under the sun, a travesty on the whole scheme of creation.”
Jack London

“Conscience is the root of all true courage; if a man would be brave let him obey his conscience.”
James Freeman Clarke

“The best hearts are ever the bravest.”
Laurence Sterne

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear.”
Mark Twain

“The man who has never been in danger cannot answer for his courage.”
François de La Rochefoucauld

“Courage is grace under pressure.”
Ernest Hemingway

“Courage without discipline is nearer beastliness than manhood.”
Sir P. Sidney

“Physical courage which despises all danger, will make a man brave in one way; and moral courage, which despises all opinion, will make a man brave in another. The former would seem most necessary for the camp; the latter for the council; but to constitute a great man both are necessary.”
Charles Caleb Colton

“Because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage it contained.”
John Stuart Mill

“There is a wide difference between true courage and a mere contempt of life.”
Cato the Elder

“Courage is doing what you are afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you are scared.”
Eddie Rickenbacker

“To see what is right and not to do it, is want of courage.”

“Life is mostly froth and bubble;
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another's trouble,
Courage in your own.”
Adam Lindsay Gordon

“No man can be brave who considers pain the greatest evil of life.”

“A true knight is fuller of bravery in the midst, than in the beginning of danger.”
Sir P. Sidney

“If we survive danger it steels our courage more than anything else.”
Barthold Georg Niebuhr

“A great deal of talent is lost in this world for the want of a little courage.”
Sydney Smith

“The wounded gladiator forswears all fighting, but soon forgetting his former wound resumes his arms.”

“Perfect courage means doing unwitnessed what we would be capable of with the world looking on.”
François de La Rochefoucauld

“Courage in danger is half the battle.”

“Courage ought to be guided by skill, and skill armed by courage.”
Sir P. Sidney

“The bravery founded on hope of recompense, fear of punishment, experience of success, on rage, or on ignorance of danger, is but common bravery, and does not deserve the name. True bravery proposes a just end; measures the dangers, and meets the result with calmness and unyielding decision.”
Francois de la Noue

“Courage is not a virtue or value among other personal values like love or fidelity. It is the foundation that underlies and gives reality to all other virtues and personal values. Without courage our love pales into mere dependency. Without courage our fidelity becomes conformism.”
Rollo May

“Courage makes a man more than himself; for he is then himself plus his valor.”
William R. Alger

“Courage is adversity’s lamp.”
Luc de Clapiers

“So far as man stands for anything, and is productive or originative at all, his entire vital function may be said to have to deal with maybes. Not a victory is gained, not a deed of faithfulness or courage is done, except upon a maybe; not a service, not a sally of generosity, not a scientific exploration or experiment or textbook, that may not be a mistake. It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all.”
William James

“O friends, be men, and let your hearts be strong,
And let no warrior in the heat of fight
Do what may bring him shame in others' eyes;
For more of those who shrink from shame are safe
Than fall in battle, while with those who flee
Is neither glory nor reprieve from death.”

“Remember now, when you meet your antagonist, do everything in a mild, agreeable manner. Let your courage be as keen, but, at the same time, as polished, as your sword.”
Richard Brinsley Sheridan

“God holds with the strong.”
Giuseppe Mazzini

“It is courage that vanquishes in war, and not good weapons.”
Miguel de Cervantes

“He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Go on and increase in valor, O boy! This is the path to immortality.”

“Man is loved mainly because of two virtues: courage first, loyalty second.”
Gaius Lucilius

“A coward flees backward, away from new things. A man of courage flees forward, in the midst of new things.”
Jacques Maritain

“A man of courage is also full of faith.”

“He who loses wealth loses much; he who loses a friend loses more; but he that loses his courage loses all.”
Miguel de Cervantes

“Troops would never be deficient in courage, if they could only know how deficient in it their enemies were.”
Duke of Wellington

“The boldest measures are the safest.”
Horatio Nelson

“Tell a man that he is brave, and you help him become so.”
Thomas Carlyle

“Courage consists not in hazarding without fear, but being resolutely minded in a just cause.”

“When the will defies fear, when the heart applauds the brain, when duty throws the gauntlet down to fate, when honor scorns to compromise with death — this is heroism.”
Robert Green Ingersoll

“He holds no parley with unmanly fears,
Where duty bids he confident steers,
Faces a thousand dangers at her call,
And, trusting in his God, surmounts them all.”
Wiliam Cowper

“Keep your fears to yourself but share your courage with others.”
Robert Louis Stevenson

“The world is in a constant conspiracy against the brave. It’s the age-old struggle — the roar of the crowd on one side and the voice of your conscience on the other.”
Douglas MacArthur

“The scars you acquire by exercising courage will never make you feel inferior.”
Giovanni Battista Cima

“Knowledge without courage is sterile.”
Baltasar Gracián

“To him that waits all things reveal themselves, provided that he has the courage not to deny, in the darkness, what he has seen in the light.”
Coventry Patmore

“Oh fear not in a world like this
And thou shalt know ere long
Know how sublime a thing it is
To suffer and be strong”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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