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[kou] /kaʊ/
verb (used with object)
to frighten with threats, violence, etc.; intimidate; overawe.
Origin of cow2
1595-1605; < Old Norse kūga to oppress, cow; compare Danish kue to cow
Related forms
uncowed, adjective
terrorize, scare, bully. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for cowing
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • There was no one like Larry for facing a crowd and cowing it.

    Way of the Lawless Max Brand
  • So I was grateful to him for cowing them, though I really believe that your way is the best, Stair.

    Patsy S. R. Crockett
  • The tone of the question usually had the effect of cowing Tabitha, but the temptation was too strong to be resisted.

  • If monsters with no information about us landed, they might perpetrate some massacres with the entirely foolish idea of cowing us.

    Operation Terror William Fitzgerald Jenkins
  • The cowing of the Nor'westers' huskies was coincident with the overpowering of the Nor'westers themselves.

  • Am I to infer that cowing her spouse and swearing outrageously makes her man-like?

  • He did not hesitate to leave the two conspirators alone together again; he judged that he had succeeded in cowing them both.

    The White Blackbird Hudson Douglas
  • Dick, cowing him further with a sustained glare, replaced the paper-weight and directed an envelope.

    Quarter-Back Bates Ralph Henry Barbour
  • All I reckoned upon was cowing him into a civiller posture of mind, and checking his aggressions and insolence.

    The Frozen Pirate W. Clark Russell
British Dictionary definitions for cowing


the mature female of any species of cattle, esp domesticated cattle
the mature female of various other mammals, such as the elephant, whale, and seal
(not in technical use) any domestic species of cattle
(informal) a disagreeable woman
(Austral & NZ, slang) something objectionable (esp in the phrase a fair cow)
(informal) till the cows come home, for a very long time; effectively for ever
Word Origin
Old English cū; related to Old Norse kӯr, Old High German kuo, Latin bōs, Greek boūs, Sanskrit gāŭs


(transitive) to frighten or overawe, as with threats
Word Origin
C17: from Old Norse kūga to oppress, related to Norwegian kue, Swedish kuva
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 cowing



Old English cu "cow," from Proto-Germanic *kwon (cf. Old Frisian ku, Middle Dutch coe, Dutch koe, Old High German kuo, German Kuh, Old Norse kyr, Danish, Swedish ko), earlier *kwom, from PIE *gwous (cf. Sanskrit gaus, Greek bous, Latin bov-, Old Irish bo, Latvian guovs, Armenian gaus "cow," Slovak hovado "ox"), perhaps ultimately imitative of lowing (cf. Sumerian gu, Chinese ngu, ngo "ox"). In Germanic and Celtic, of females only; in most other languages, of either gender. Other "cow" words sometimes are from roots meaning "horn, horned," e.g. Lithuanian karve, Old Church Slavonic krava.



"intimidate," c.1600, probably from Old Norse kuga "oppress," of unknown origin, but perhaps having something to do with cow (n.) on the notion of easily herded. Related: Cowed; cowing.

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



  1. Milk (1900+)
  2. A woman: The silly cow believed everything she heard (1696+)
  3. A young woman (1930s+ Underworld)

Related Terms

armored cow, canned cow, cash cow, sea cow

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 cowing


In addition to the idiom beginning with
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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