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  1. any of various short mixed drinks, consisting typically of gin, whiskey, rum, vodka, or brandy, with different admixtures, as vermouth, fruit juices, or flavorings, usually chilled and frequently sweetened.
  2. a portion of food, as seafood served with a sauce, a mixture of fruits, or juice, served as the appetizer course of a meal.
  3. Pharmacology. a beverage or solution concocted of various drugs.
  4. any eclectic mixture or miscellaneous collection.
verb (used without object)
  1. to drink cocktails, especially at a cocktail party: They cocktailed before going to the theater.
  1. (of women's clothing) styled for semiformal wear: a cocktail dress.
  2. of, pertaining to, used in, or suitable to the serving of cocktails: cocktail onions; cocktail napkins.

Origin of cocktail1

1800–10, Americanism; origin obscure; none of numerous attempts to explain the orig. of this word or its relationship to cocktail2 have won general acceptance


  1. a horse with a docked tail.
  2. a horse that is not a thoroughbred.
  3. a man of little breeding who passes for a gentleman.

Origin of cocktail2

First recorded in 1590–1600; cock2 + tail1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for cocktail

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • "It's all right, but I'm afraid your cocktail will be tepid," he said.

  • Slum lowered his cocktail and turned a disgusted look on him.

    The Night Riders

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • The first cocktail you drink will be the signal for me to clear decks for action.

    Cap'n Dan's Daughter

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • In Trumet a cocktail is a dreadful thing; but here it isn't.

    Cap'n Dan's Daughter

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • Now had she been thoroughbred, I was all right; as a cocktail, I was all wrong.'

    Lord Kilgobbin

    Charles Lever

British Dictionary definitions for cocktail


    1. any mixed drink with a spirit base, usually drunk before meals
    2. (as modifier)the cocktail hour
  1. an appetizer of seafood, mixed fruits, etc
  2. any combination of diverse elements, esp one considered potent
  3. (modifier) appropriate for formal occasionsa cocktail dress

Word Origin

C19: of unknown origin


  1. a horse with a docked tail
  2. an animal of unknown or mixed breeding
  3. archaic a person of little breeding pretending to be a gentleman

Word Origin

C19: originally cocktailed (adj) having a tail like a cock's
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for cocktail


first attested 1806; H.L. Mencken lists seven versions of its origin, perhaps the most persuasive is French coquetier "egg-cup" (15c.; in English cocktay). In New Orleans, c.1795, Antoine Amédée Peychaud, an apothecary (and inventor of Peychaud bitters) held Masonic social gatherings at his pharmacy, where he mixed brandy toddies with his own bitters and served them in an egg-cup. On this theory, the drink took the name of the cup. Used from 1920s of any mix of substances (e.g. fruit, Molotov). Cocktail party first attested 1928.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

cocktail in Medicine


  1. A mixture of drugs, usually in solution, for the diagnosis or treatment of a condition.
  2. A treatment regimen that includes a combination of several drugs that enhances their individual potency.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.