verb (used without object)

Informal. to get on well together; agree.
Obsolete. to prosper or succeed.

Verb Phrases

cotton (on) to, Informal.
  1. to become fond of; begin to like.
  2. to approve of; agree with: to cotton to a suggestion.
  3. to come to a full understanding of; grasp: More and more firms are cottoning on to the advantages of using computers.

Nearby words

  1. cotter pin,
  2. cotter slot,
  3. cottian alps,
  4. cottid,
  5. cottier,
  6. cotton batting,
  7. cotton belt,
  8. cotton bollworm,
  9. cotton bud,
  10. cotton bush

Origin of cotton

1250–1300; Middle English coton < Old French < Old Italian cotone < Arabic qutun, variant of qutn

Related formshalf-cot·ton, adjectivesem·i·cot·ton, nounun·cot·toned, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for cotton to

cotton to

verb (intr, preposition) US and Canadian informal

to become friendly with
to approve of



any of various herbaceous plants and shrubs of the malvaceous genus Gossypium, such as sea-island cotton, cultivated in warm climates for the fibre surrounding the seeds and the oil within the seedsSee also sea-island cotton
the soft white downy fibre of these plants: used to manufacture textiles
cotton plants collectively, as a cultivated crop
  1. a cloth or thread made from cotton fibres
  2. (as modifier)a cotton dress
any substance, such as kapok (silk cotton), resembling cotton but obtained from other plants

Derived Formscottony, adjective

Word Origin for cotton

C14: from Old French coton, from Arabic dialect qutun, from Arabic qutn



Sir Henry. 1907–87, English golfer: three times winner of the British Open (1934, 1937, 1948)
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 cotton to
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for cotton to

cotton to

To take a liking to someone or something: “I was afraid Janet wouldn't like my brother, but she cottoned to him immediately.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with cotton to

cotton to


Take a liking to, get along with, as in This dog doesn't cotton to strangers. Although this verbal phrase comes from the noun for the fabric, the semantic connection between these parts of speech is unclear. [Early 1800s]


Also, cotton on to. Come to understand, grasp, as in She didn't really cotton on to what I was saying. [Colloquial; early 1900s]

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