Green’s Dictionary of Slang

Dutch courage n.

also courage, Dutch nerve, ...spunk, German courage
[coined as a propagandist measure during various Anglo-Dutch wars of 18C]

1. cowardice that, fortified by generous quantities of alcohol, becomes (temporary) bravery; also as fortified by drugs (see cits. 1933, 1947); also attrib.

[UK]W. Scott Heart of Mid-Lothian (1883) 308: D--n all Dutch courage.
[US]J.K. Paulding John Bull in America 75: ‘O,’ answered he [...] ‘this is what we call Dutch courage; and I assure you upon my credit, that I never knew a genuine brother Jonathan who could be brought to face an enemy, or die with decency, unless he had his skin full of whiskey, and well “corned,” as we say.’.
[US]D. Crockett Col. Crockett’s Tour to North and Down East 23: I [...] took some refreshment, not passing by a little Dutch courage. Of the latter there was plenty.
[Ire]Cork Examiner 27 Feb. 2/2: They commenced a series of noises [...] and attempts at drunken wit [...] these ‘chamberers’ and heroes so full of fun and Dutch courage.
[US]C.A. Bristed Upper Ten Thousand 153: A bottle of true Dutch courage – genuine Knickerbocker Madeira.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 17 Feb. 3/1: Her husband, whose natural vigour had received additional stimulus by means of certain potations, termed amongst sailors, ‘Dutch courage’.
[UK]W. Pratt Ten Nights in a Bar-Room V ii: My nateral strength has come back, and with it a large assortment of genuine Yankee courage, which would soon knock that Dutch spunk of yours.
[UK]G.A. Sala Quite Alone I 116: Mr. Blunt took a pretty heavy draught of the Dutch courage, which was, indeed, the very best French cognac.
[UK]H. Spencer Study of Sociology (9th edn) 185: A dose of brandy, by stimulating the circulation, produces Dutch courage, as it is called [F&H].
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 24 Jan. 12/1: Weber [...] prides himself on his dexterity as a tapster, having been engaged in dealing out German ‘courage’ for many years.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 14 Mar. 6/1: [He] said that the National Temperance League ‘had taught the world that at least English soldiers and sailors could do without alcoholic stimulants, and that they did not require “Dutch courage” to enable them to fulfil their duties.’.
[US]N. Gould Double Event 57: Champagne [...] had roused his lordship considerably, and given him an amount of ‘Dutch courage’.
[UK]A. Binstead Gal’s Gossip 115: Summoning Dutch courage to her aid by swallowing a whole liqueur glass of Mother Somebody’s Stomach Bitters.
[US]Ade Girl Proposition 62: What he needed was a little Dutch Courage. Accordingly he slipped out and stowed away five Santiago sours.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 20 Oct. 5/8: What’s the use of me Dutch-courage drinks / If I’m stopped when I call ’im a cow?
[UK]Magnet 3 Sept. 13: I don’t need Dutch courage. I’ll lick him without any beer.
[NZ]G. Malone diary 29 Apr. in Phillips et al. Great Adventure (1988) 38: I should be sorry to think that my men wanted ‘Dutch Courage’.
[US]R. Lardner Gullible’s Travels 138: ‘I’ll take some courage first,’ says I. Arid then was when I found out that it cost you ten cents extra besides the tip to pay for a drink that you already owned in fee simple.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 171: Who distilled first? Some chap in the blues. Dutch courage.
[US]O. Strange Law O’ The Lariat 120: ‘D’yu reckon yu could find a bottle o’ whiskey?’ [...] ‘Dutch courage, eh?’.
[US]J. Spenser Limey 126: That type of ‘Dutch courage’ doper is not satisfied with marijuana [...] they want something with a real kick to it, like morphine.
[US]‘F. Bonnamy’ Self Portrait of Murder (1951) 197: When with dope he gave himself Dutch courage for bigger things.
[UK]‘Charles Raven’ Und. Nights 178: He was full of Dutch courage and had breath like a distillery.
[US]T. Berger Reinhart in Love (1963) 130: Furnishing the orator with disguise, bottle of Dutch nerve, and extravagant encouragement.
[Ire](con. 1940s) B. Behan Confessions 174: I was full of Dutch courage or Gaelic courage, from the flask of whiskey in my pocket.
[UK]F. Norman Dead Butler Caper 99: Curiosity compelled me to investigate – just as soon as I’d finished my drink, and maybe a half dozen more to give me Dutch courage.
[UK]P. Bailey An Eng. Madam 81: I’m not much of a drinker, but I needed Dutch Courage that first day.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett You Wouldn’t Be Dead for Quids (1989) 177: He was all fired up with drink and dutch courage.
[UK]A. Close Official and Doubtful 54: Unless he stopped off somewhere for a couple of shots of Dutch Courage.
[UK]K. Sampson Outlaws (ms.) 63: Office divvies full of Dutch courage and that, start thinking they’re hard after a few slurps.
[SA]A. Lovejoy ‘The Smell of Tears’ at www.acidalex.com [Internet] 31: Eventually they finished imbibing the bottled Dutch courage.

2. in fig. use, courage that is obtained through some form of non-alcoholic extra-personal aid, e.g. a weapon.

[US]R.F. Burton City of the Saints 410: The differences between the often Dutch courage of a bowie-knife squabble and the moral fortitude that stands firm in the presence of famine.

In phrases