I saw the sentence on the TED videoed lecture delivered by Ms. David. This is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDQ1Mi5I4rg&feature=youtu.be

At 15:35,

"What he showed me is that courage is not an absence of fear,"

said the lecturer, and at 15:40 comes the sentence:

"Courage is fear walking."

I am not sure what walk means here. Does it mean the same as Oxford Dictionary's sixth entry as (literary) (of a ghost) to appear? Or, does it mean fear walks on foot in a metaphorical way? (Then what does it compare to if it is the case...like walking away, or walking with the person?)

2 Answers 2


It is saying that the brave do have fear but they do not let it immobilize them.

Walking has a literal meaning there, to move forward using one's legs and feet.

Fear is personified.

  • But if a person who is fearful takes action (as the courageous person does), how is it the fear that's walking? Seems to me like it's the fearful who walk, not the fear. If we personify fear, we're suggesting that it is the emotion which is taking action, e.g. sadness consumed him. Thus, "fear walking" should probably mean acting fearfully. "Fear walking" would meaning walking away from the frightening thing.
    – Juhasz
    Oct 24, 2018 at 17:55
  • 1
    @Juhasz: Are you familiar with phrases like Don't listen to him. It's just the alcohol talking ?
    – TimR
    Oct 24, 2018 at 19:05
  • To be "frozen with fear" is a commonplace. It means to be immobilized by the emotion, unable to act. The author there is representing the idea of "fear overcome" (i.e. courage) via metonymy, in terms of that effect of fear. Fear walking is fear that has been overcome, fear which, because it has been overcome, is able to walk, and in being so able, has been transformed.
    – TimR
    Oct 24, 2018 at 19:19
  • Actually, I think that's a perfect example of my point. It's the alcohol talking means, he's talking drunkenly. So it's the fear walking would mean he's walking fearfully not he's walking courageously.
    – Juhasz
    Oct 24, 2018 at 19:22
  • Anyway, it doesn't really matter. We interpret "fear walking" differently, but the speaker's point was clear. My assumption is that it's only clear because the idea, and the first half of the phrase, are commonly known. I assume that if the speaker had merely said, "courage is fear walking," we would not understand her. But I guess we'll never know.
    – Juhasz
    Oct 24, 2018 at 19:25

I do not understand the phrase "courage is fear walking."

I assume what the speaker means is, "Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it" or "Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the willingness to act in spite of my fear" or "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear" or any of the other variations that you can find all over the internet attributed (probably incorrectly) to all kinds of historical figures.

"Courage is fear walking" is a very strange way to express this. If I were you, I would not try to use fear in this way.

  • 2
    I disagree most strongly. Speaking as a native speaker, the phrase is eloquent and pithy. It makes a good epigram specifically because it is so concise. It's even better than Hemingway's "Courage is grace under pressure", which uses the same personification technique, but applied to grace. Oct 25, 2018 at 0:21
  • Thanks for sharing your opinion. I like your interpretation of the author's words, but still I would like to dissect the sentence per se.
    – user32250
    Oct 30, 2018 at 10:22

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