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[kawf, kof] /kɔf, kɒf/
verb (used without object)
to expel air from the lungs suddenly with a harsh noise, often involuntarily.
(of an internal-combustion engine) to make a similar noise as a result of the failure of one or more cylinders to fire in sequence.
to make a similar sound, as a machine gun firing in spurts.
verb (used with object)
to expel by coughing (usually followed by up or out):
to cough up phlegm.
the act or sound of coughing.
an illness characterized by frequent coughing.
a sound similar to a cough, a machine gun, or an engine firing improperly.
Verb phrases
cough up, Slang.
  1. to relinquish, especially reluctantly; contribute; give.
  2. to blurt out; state, as by way of making a confession:
    After several hours of vigorous questioning by the police, he finally coughed up the information.
Origin of cough
1275-1325; Middle English coghen, apparently < Old English *cohhian (compare its derivative cohhettan to cough); akin to Dutch kuchen to cough, German keuchen to wheeze
Related forms
cougher, noun
Can be confused
cough, cuff, koph. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for cough up
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • We get together most every night in his room, and I has to cough up what I've got next to durin' the day.

    Torchy Sewell Ford
  • He stopped his rush and began to cough up blood from a pierced lung.

    B. C. 30,000 Sterner St. Paul Meek
  • Nothing but Yanks or Tommies could cough up a roar like that, believe me.

    To Kiel in the 'Hercules' Lewis R. Freeman
  • Shipley will have to cough up the stolen money, too, because then the conspiracy will be proven.

    Bulldog Carney W. A. Fraser
  • Live ones, I mean, that cough up their little dues every month.

    Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford George Randolph Chester
British Dictionary definitions for cough up

cough up

verb (adverb)
(informal) to surrender (money, information, etc), esp reluctantly
(transitive) to bring into the mouth or eject (phlegm, food, etc) by coughing


(intransitive) to expel air or solid matter from the lungs abruptly and explosively through the partially closed vocal chords
(intransitive) to make a sound similar to this
(transitive) to utter or express with a cough or coughs
(intransitive) (slang) to confess to a crime
an act, instance, or sound of coughing
a condition of the lungs or throat that causes frequent coughing
Derived Forms
cougher, noun
Word Origin
Old English cohhetten; related to Middle Dutch kochen, Middle High German kūchen to wheeze; probably of imitative origin
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
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Word Origin and History for cough up



early 14c., coughen, probably in Old English, but not recorded, from Proto-Germanic *kokh- (with the rough "kh" of German or of Scottish loch; cf. Middle Dutch kochen, Middle High German kuchen). Onomatopoeic. Related: Coughed; coughing. As a noun from c.1300.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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cough up in Medicine

cough (kôf)
v. coughed, cough·ing, coughs
To expel air from the lungs suddenly and noisily, often to keep the respiratory passages free of irritating material. n.

  1. The act of coughing.

  2. An illness marked by frequent coughing.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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cough up in Science
  (kôf, kŏf)   
The act of expelling air from the lungs suddenly and noisily, often to keep the respiratory passages free of irritating material.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for cough up

cough up

verb phrase

  1. To pay or give something, esp with some reluctance: Coughing it up: Dunleavy was not happy that the Bucks committed 26 turnovers (1894+)
  2. To tell or relate, esp under interrogation •Modern use, which may not truly represent a continuity with the medieval occurrence, begins in the 1890s (1393+)
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with cough up

cough up

Hand over or relinquish, especially money; pay up. For example, It's time the delinquent members coughed up their dues. [ ; late 1800s ]
Confess or divulge, as in Pretty soon she'd cough up the whole story about last night. This idiom transfers the act of vomiting to telling the entire truth. [ ; late 1800s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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