Difference between courage and bravery

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Difference between courage and bravery
Courage is contagious

Courage and bravery are words that most people use interchangeably to mean the same thing. Although these terms are perceived to be synonyms, it’s important to know that they differ to a great extent. Even so, people still find it difficult to separate these words. For instance, if you risk your own life to go inside a burning house to save a life, would that be courage or bravery? From the English language, these two terms are the most confusing, especially to people who don’t speak English as their native language. If a person makes an attempt to look up the words in a dictionary, it may not be useful as the definition given is always confusing. That’s why some people believe that courage and bravery are one the same thing. This article makes an attempt to create a clear distinction between these two words in a bid to create an understanding of what they mean.

Let us begin by throwing in some few words such as bold, intrepid, confident, fearless, and resolute. There are more words which can be utilized in describing the attributes of an individual other than the mentioned words. Let’s look at an example of a young boy flinching or not crying during vaccination. Won’t you call him brave? What term would you utilize to describe a man who fights a lion in the wilderness without any weapon? Perhaps courageous. How do you distinguish between the two scenarios of the vaccinated kid and the man engaging a lion even when he is certain he stands no chance? Courageous or brave? Let’s look at each word in details.


According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, courage is the moral or mental strength to persevere, venture, and withstand difficulty, fear, and danger. The Oxford dictionary defines courage as the strength amidst grief or pain. From these definitions, it is clear that courage implies a state of mind which offers strength in the face of danger, grief, difficulties, or pain.

As an example, courage can be observed in soldiers who persevere to complete their mission even when they are injured. This sort of courage is derived from their patriotism and inner conviction, aspects that the soldiers show amid difficulties. There is a moral courage for one to take responsibility for something that brings abuse from others.

It should also be known that courage doesn’t necessarily mean danger. Although you may need the courage to tackle a dangerous situation, it may be required in cases other than danger. For instance, one needs all the courage they can get to admit wrongdoing, especially when their mistake led to some loss or destruction. In addition to that, one may need the courage to come to terms with the loss of someone close to them such as their friends or relatives. These kinds of situations don’t pose any threat, yet they are quite difficult circumstances which require courage to get through them.

The following are examples of sentences that illustrate how the word courage is utilized.

  • She always admired her husband’s courage and strength
  • He got through the illness with courage
  • It takes courage to accept your faults
  • You need courage to face your admirer for the first time.


According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, courage is the quality which makes it possible for a person to do dangerous or frightening things.[i] Oxford dictionary defines bravery as a courageous character or behavior. These two definitions explain the relationship between bravery and courage but don’t show the distinction between the two terms. Physical or real danger is an aspect which differentiates courage from bravery. Bravery is a word that is often utilized in situations of danger. For instance, it is a term that is used with the firefighters, soldiers, and policemen who often deal with danger. However, bravery is not used in situations where people face grief, pain, or difficulties.

Difference between courage and bravery
IMO Bravery Awards 2015

In most cases, the term “bravery” is associated with fearlessness because it involves not displaying fear. A brave individual could be afraid of something, but they are always ready to conceal their fear and deal with the dangerous situation. This is the difference between a brave and courageous person. To be brave, you’ll need to be mentally strong. Such mental strength amidst danger is what is called courage. Therefore, it’s impossible to be brave without having courage within yourself.

The following are examples of how “bravery” is used in everyday application.

  • Every person admired his bravery during the battle
  • During his time as a soldier, he received an award of bravery after recuing two wounded soldiers

A distinction between bravery and courage

Form the above information, we can clearly say that the presence of a motivation of cause is one of the major distinguishing factor of bravery and courage. While the former can maintain its essence without any cause, the latter is always gripped by a motivation or a cause. This can be in the form of a concern, love, devotion, passion, or compassion.

Another aspect differentiating the two words is mindfulness. The bravery acts do not always require critical judgment. In most cases, this quality become inherent as a result of societal or family values and for that reason, it effortlessly reveals itself second to human nature. For instance, a brave individual can eat a snail when required to, without putting a lot of reason or thought to it, and without paying much attention to the repercussions of their action. On the other hand, courage manifests from deep understanding of a matter. A person who is courageous understands what they are getting themselves into and what it is they are doing. For example, they know they can die if they enter a burning house to save their child, but still go ahead and do it. He quivers when he thinks about burning to death but goes on to save the child anyway – that is courage!

A table explaining the differences between these two words is shown below.

Courage Bravery
It is a mental or moral strength to persevere, venture, and withstand fear or danger Bravery is a quality that is needed if someone is to do something frightening or dangerous
Doesn’t imply physical danger Bravery implies the presence of physical danger
Courage is necessary if one is to face grief, fear, difficulties, or dangerous situations Bravery is mainly required during dangerous situations
Manifests from a deep understanding of a matter Acts don’t require critical judgment
Courage features a cause, usually passion, love, concern, compassion Bravery still holds in the absence of a cause




References :

[0]Definition of COURAGE. (2017). Merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 31 March 2017, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/courage

[1]Definition of BRAVERY. (2017). Merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 31 March 2017, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bravery

[2][img] Courage is contagious : https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cc/Courage_is_contagious.jpg

[3][img] IMO Bravery Awards 2015: https://c1.staticflickr.com/6/5788/22884110529_e71352b38d_b.jpg


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