Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English homepage

Date: 1500-1600
Origin: metal

mettle

noun
     
met‧tle [uncountable]
1 courage and determination to do something even when it is very difficult
test/show/prove your mettle
a crisis which will test the minister's mettle
2

on your mettle

British English if you are on your mettle, you are ready to try as hard as possible because your abilities are being tested:
We'll have to be on our mettle from the start.
keep/put somebody on their mettle
This was just his way of keeping me on my mettle.

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