- to act in an obsequious manner; show servile deference.
- to touch the forehead to the ground while kneeling, as an act of worship, reverence, apology, etc., especially in former Chinese custom.
- the act of kowtowing.
Origin of kowtow
Examples from the Web for kowtow
And, of course, all these people had to kowtow and sell to Saatchi.Joshua Compston Was Once the Wunderkind of the British Art World…and Now He’s Been Practically Forgotten
January 17, 2014
If President Obama wants to kowtow more to "the markets" (Wall Street), he might appoint someone like Summers or Rubin.Stop the Madness!
August 8, 2011
He likes to remind people that he supports abortion rights and does not kowtow to the fire-breathers in the Republican ranks.Can Obama Save His Seat?
October 28, 2010
And yet he did not move—he made no movement save to kowtow for mercy with his head.Wang the Ninth
No matter how servile he may be at home, everyone will kowtow to him abroad.Villa Elsa
Li stood there behind her and made a sign to us to kowtow to her.
We had to kowtow again in thanking Her Majesty for her kindness and finally she said: "Nemen tzowba" (you can go now).
I think it is perfectly frightful the way we bow down and kowtow to your beast—the great god Cash!Pirates' Hope
- to touch the forehead to the ground as a sign of deference: a former Chinese custom
- (often foll by to) to be servile or obsequious (towards)
- the act of kowtowing
Word Origin and History for kowtow
also kow-tow, 1804, from Chinese k'o-t'ou custom of touching the ground with the forehead to show respect or submission, literally "knock the head," from k'o "knock, bump" + t'ou "head." The verb in the figurative sense of "act in an obsequious manner" is from 1826. Related: Kowtowed; kowtowing.