Pluck is sometimes used as a synonym of courage. You may hear of a person battling cancer that they have “pluck and determination” or of someone who has a rags to riches story that they pursued their dreams with “pluck and gumption.” You may even hear that someone “plucked up” the courage to accomplish a daunting task.
But why do we associate the word “pluck” – which otherwise means to pick or to pull on something – with courage? Isn’t plucking just for daisies and chickens?
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, we started using pluck this way in the late 18th century. The origin of this usage for the word is pugilism – boxing. It was a reference to an earlier meaning of the noun “pluck” – the heart and other viscera plucked from an animal during butchery. The pluck of a sheep are used to make an infamous Scottish dish – you guessed it – haggis!
So to have pluck is to have heart, you see. You could have the pluck of a Scottish piper, marching into battle with a column of soldiers following behind. And to be a plucky individual is to be full of heart and courage, to be upbeat and courageous in the face of adversity.