POLTROON, a coward, a worthless rogue without courage or spirit. The word comes through Fr. poltron from Ital. poltrone, an idle fellow, one who lolls in a bed or couch (Milanese palter, Venetian poltrona, adapted from Ger. Polster, a pillow; cf. English " bolster"). The old guess that it was from Lat. pollice truncus, maimed in the thumb, and was first applied to those who avoided military service by self-mutilation, gave rise probably to the French application of poltron to a falcon whose talons were cut to prevent its attacking game.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)