Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
poltroon \pahl-TROON\ noun
: a spiritless coward : craven
In the end, their leader proved to be a traitorous poltroon whose main concern was saving his own skin.
Did you know?
When you get down to synonyms, a "poltroon" is just a "chicken." Barnyard chickens are fowl that have long been noted for timidity, and the name "chicken" has been applied to human cowards since the 17th century. "Poltroon" has been used for wimps and cravens for even longer, since the early 16th century at least. And if you remember that chickens are dubbed "poultry," you may guess that the birds and the cowards are linked by etymology as well as synonymy. English picked up "poltroon" from Middle French, which in turn got it from Old Italian "poltrone," meaning "coward." The Italian term has been traced to the Latin "pullus," a root that is also an ancestor of "pullet" (a young hen) and "poultry."