Craven

means “your mercy is craved.” It was usual in former times to decide controversies by an appeal to battle. The combatants fought with bâtons, and if the accused could either kill his adversary or maintain the fight till sundown, he was acquitted. If he wished to call off, he cried out “Craven!” and was held infamous, while the defendant was advanced to honour. (Blackstone.)

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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