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[kuhv-er] /ˈkʌv ər/
verb (used with object)
to be or serve as a covering for; extend over; rest on the surface of:
Snow covered the fields.
to place something over or upon, as for protection, concealment, or warmth.
to provide with a covering or top:
Cover the pot with a lid.
to protect or conceal (the body, head, etc.) with clothes, a hat, etc; wrap.
to bring upon (oneself):
He covered himself with glory by his exploits.
to hide from view; screen.
to spread on or over; apply to:
to cover bread with honey.
to put all over the surface of:
to cover a wall with paint.
to include, deal with, or provide for; address:
The rules cover working conditions.
to suffice to defray or meet (a charge, expense, etc.):
Ten dollars should cover my expenses.
to offset (an outlay, loss, liability, etc.).
to achieve in distance traversed; pass or travel over:
We covered 600 miles a day on our trip.
  1. to act as a reporter or reviewer of (an event, a field of interest, a performance, etc.); have as an assignment:
    She covers sports for the paper.
  2. to publish or broadcast a report or reports of (a news item, a series of related events, etc.):
    The press covered the trial in great detail.
to pass or rise over and surmount or envelop:
The river covered the town during the flood.
Insurance. to insure against risk or loss.
to shelter; protect; serve as a defense for.
  1. to be in line with by occupying a position directly before or behind.
  2. to protect (a soldier, force, or military position) during an expected period of ground combat by taking a position from which any hostile troops can be fired upon.
to take temporary charge of or responsibility for in place of another:
Please cover my phone while I'm out to lunch.
to extend over; comprise:
The book covers 18th-century England.
to be assigned to or responsible for, as a territory or field of endeavor:
We have two sales representatives covering the Southwest.
to aim at, as with a pistol.
to have within range, as a fortress does adjacent territory.
to play a card higher than (the one led or previously played in the round).
to deposit the equivalent of (money deposited), as in wagering.
to accept the conditions of (a bet, wager, etc.).
(in short selling) to purchase securities or commodities in order to deliver them to the broker from whom they were borrowed.
Baseball. to take a position close to or at (a base) so as to catch a ball thrown to the base:
The shortstop covered second on the attempted steal.
Sports. to guard (an opponent on offense) so as to prevent him or her from scoring or carrying out his or her assignment:
to cover a potential pass receiver.
(especially of a male animal) to copulate with.
(of a hen) to brood or sit on (eggs or chicks).
verb (used without object)
Informal. to serve as a substitute for someone who is absent:
We cover for the receptionist during lunch hour.
to hide the wrongful or embarrassing action of another by providing an alibi or acting in the other's place:
They covered for him when he missed roll call.
to play a card higher than the one led or previously played in the round:
She led the eight and I covered with the jack.
to spread over an area or surface, especially for the purpose of obscuring an existing covering or of achieving a desired thickness and evenness:
This paint is much too thin to cover.
something that covers, as the lid of a container or the binding of a book.
a blanket, quilt, or the like:
Put another cover on the bed.
protection; shelter; concealment.
anything that veils, screens, or shuts from sight:
under cover of darkness.
woods, underbrush, etc., serving to shelter and conceal wild animals or game; a covert.
Ecology. vegetation that serves to protect or conceal animals, such as birds, from excessive sunlight, from drying, or from predators.
a set of eating utensils and the like, as plate, knife, fork, and napkin, placed for each person at a table.
an assumed identity, occupation, or business that masks the true or real one:
His job at the embassy was a cover for his work as a spy.
a covering of snow, especially when suitable for skiing.
a pretense; feigning.
a person who substitutes for another or stands ready to substitute if needed:
She was hired as a cover for six roles at the opera house.
  1. an envelope or outer wrapping for mail.
  2. a letter folded so that the address may be placed on the outside and the missive mailed.
Finance. funds to cover liability or secure against risk of loss.
Music. cover version.
Also called covering. Mathematics. a collection of sets having the property that a given set is contained in the union of the sets in the collection.
Verb phrases
cover up,
  1. to cover completely; enfold.
  2. to keep secret; conceal:
    She tried to cover up her part in the plot.
blow one's cover, to divulge one's secret identity, especially inadvertently:
The TV news story blew his carefully fabricated cover.
break cover, to emerge, especially suddenly, from a place of concealment:
The fox broke cover and the chase was on.
cover one's / someone's ass, Slang: Vulgar. to take measures that will prevent oneself or another person from suffering blame, loss, harm, etc.
take cover, to seek shelter or safety:
The hikers took cover in a deserted cabin to escape the sudden storm.
under cover,
  1. clandestinely; secretly:
    Arrangements for the escape were made under cover.
  2. within an envelope:
    The report will be mailed to you under separate cover.
Origin of cover
1200-50; Middle English coveren < Old French covrir < Latin cooperīre to cover completely, equivalent to co- co- + operīre to shut, close, cover (op-, apparently for ob- ob- + -erīre; see aperient)
Related forms
coverable, adjective
coverer, noun
coverless, adjective
half-covered, adjective
precover, verb (used with object)
well-covered, adjective
2. overlay, overspread, envelop, enwrap. 6. cloak, conceal. 11. counterbalance, compensate for.
Synonym Study
37, 38. Cover, protection, screen, shelter mean a defense against harm or danger and a provision for safety. The main idea in cover is that of concealment, as in darkness, in a wood, or behind something: The ground troops were left without cover when the air force was withdrawn. Screen refers especially to something behind which one can hide: A well-aimed artillary fire formed a screen for ground operations. Protection and shelter emphasize the idea of a guard or defense, a shield against injury or death. A protection is any such shield: In World War II, an air cover of airplanes served as a protection for troops. A shelter is something that covers over and acts as a place of refuge: An abandoned monastery acted as a shelter. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for cover
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Pericles was usually represented with a helmet, to cover the deformity in his skull.

    Philothea Lydia Maria Child
  • He looked above to estimate the ground he could cover on the morrow.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • I have watched them cover their tracks with a cunning more than vulpine.

    'Tis Sixty Years Since Charles Francis Adams
  • I was so enraged that she was not there, I wished to cover my face with my handkerchief.

    Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson
  • And then, when the cover was removed, came the time of trial to your correspondent.

British Dictionary definitions for cover


verb (mainly transitive)
to place or spread something over so as to protect or conceal
to provide with a covering; clothe
to put a garment, esp a hat, on (the body or head)
to extend over or lie thickly on the surface of; spread: snow covered the fields
to bring upon (oneself); invest (oneself) as if with a covering: covered with shame
(sometimes foll by up) to act as a screen or concealment for; hide from view
(military) to protect (an individual, formation, or place) by taking up a position from which fire may be returned if those being protected are fired upon
(also intransitive) often foll by for. to assume responsibility for (a person or thing): to cover for a colleague in his absence
(intransitive; foll by for or up for) to provide an alibi (for)
to have as one's territory: this salesman covers your area
to travel over: to cover three miles a day
(transitive) to have or place in the aim and within the range of (a firearm)
to include or deal with: his talk covered all aspects of the subject
(of an asset or income) to be sufficient to meet (a liability or expense)
  1. to insure against loss, risk, etc
  2. to provide for (loss, risk, etc) by insurance
(also intransitive) (finance) to purchase (securities, etc) in order to meet contracts, esp short sales
to deposit (an equivalent stake) in a bet or wager
(also intransitive) to play a card higher in rank than (one played beforehand by another player)
to act as reporter or photographer on (a news event, etc) for a newspaper or magazine: to cover sports events
(sport) to guard or protect (an opponent, team-mate, or area)
(music) to record a cover version of
(of a male animal, esp a horse) to copulate with (a female animal)
(of a bird) to brood (eggs)
anything that covers, spreads over, protects, or conceals
woods or bushes providing shelter or a habitat for wild creatures
  1. a blanket used on a bed for warmth
  2. another word for bedspread
(finance) liquid assets, reserves, or guaranteed income sufficient to discharge a liability, meet an expenditure, etc
a pretext, disguise, or false identity: the thief sold brushes as a cover
(insurance) another word for coverage (sense 3)
an envelope or package for sending through the post: under plain cover
  1. an entire envelope that has been postmarked
  2. on cover, (of a postage stamp) kept in this form by collectors
an individual table setting, esp in a restaurant
(sport) the guarding or protection of an opponent, team-mate, or area
Also called cover version. a version by a different artist of a previously recorded musical item
  1. (often pl) the area more or less at right angles to the pitch on the off side and usually about halfway to the boundary: to field in the covers
  2. (as modifier): a cover drive by a batsman
  3. Also called cover point. a fielder in such a position
(ecology) the percentage of the ground surface covered by a given species of plant
break cover, (esp of game animals) to come out from a shelter or hiding place
take cover, to make for a place of safety or shelter
under cover, protected, concealed, or in secret: under cover of night
See also cover-up
Derived Forms
coverable, adjective
coverer, noun
coverless, adjective
Word Origin
C13: from Old French covrir, from Latin cooperīre to cover completely, from operīre to cover over
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 cover

mid-12c., from Old French covrir (12c., Modern French couvrir) "to cover, protect, conceal, dissemble," from Late Latin coperire, from Latin cooperire "to cover over, overwhelm, bury," from com-, intensive prefix (see com-), + operire "to close, cover" (see weir). Related: Covered; covering. Military sense is from 1680s; newspaper sense first recorded 1893; use in football dates from 1907. Betting sense is 1857. OF horses, as a euphemism for "copulate" it dates from 1530s. Covered wagon attested from 1745.


early 13c., in compounds, from cover (v.). Meaning "recording of a song already recorded by another" is 1966. Cover girl is U.S. slang from 1915, shortening of magazine-cover girl.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for cover



  1. A popular song recorded by artists other than those who made it famous: third album, like the first two, contains many covers of recent chart-busters (1970s+)
  2. An identity, usually an elaborate falsification, assumed by a secret agent for concealment: To improve his cover he ''resigned'' from the agency (1940s+ Espionage)


  1. To report on regularly; monitor the news at: Who's covering the White House now? (1893+ Newspaper)
  2. (also cover up) To protect someone with one's testimony: I'll cover for you if you're caught (1940s+)
  3. To substitute for someone; replace someone temporarily and protectively: Bini was the designated cover for Placido Domingo in La Gioconda (1960s+)
  4. To attend to, esp temporarily: Will you cover the switchboard while I'm at the dentist? (1970+)
  5. o travel: I covered two miles in one minute (1818+)
  6. To include; account for: That about covers what happened (1793+)
  7. To aim at with a firearm: Freeze, I got you covered (1687+)
  8. : They did best covering Springsteen and Stones hits

Related Terms

blow someone's cover

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 cover
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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