- The state of being defeated in a *duellum, and the acknowledgement of that defeat, for which a fine of 60s was payable, according to *Glanville. The AnNor. word was recreuZ; 'recreant' or 'recreancy' are English forms of the word, still carrying the sense of bad faith or apostasy. Glanville added that if a duellum could be avoided the prospect of death was obviated, as well as 'the opprobrium of a lasting infamy, of that dreadful and ignominious word that so disgracefully resounds from the mouth of the conquered champion'. That dreadful word was *craven. At this time the attempt to avoid a duellum was provided for in law, and was even considered desirable; however, the older chivalric sense of failure persisted in Glanville's words. *Bracton also mentions 'the hateful word' which was to be uttered at the end of a duel prompted by an accusation of theft. In this case the defeated had to admit theft as well as say 'Craven!' [< Lat. recreantia = acknowledgement of defeat; OldFr. recroire = surrender]
Dictionary of Medieval Terms and Phrases. Christopher Coredon with Ann Williams.