[kawf, kof]
See more synonyms for cough on
verb (used without object)
  1. to expel air from the lungs suddenly with a harsh noise, often involuntarily.
  2. (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.
  3. to make a similar sound, as a machine gun firing in spurts.
verb (used with object)
  1. to expel by coughing (usually followed by up or out): to cough up phlegm.
  1. the act or sound of coughing.
  2. an illness characterized by frequent coughing.
  3. a sound similar to a cough, a machine gun, or an engine firing improperly.
Verb Phrases
  1. 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 formscough·er, noun
Can be confusedcough cuff koph Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for cough

cold, whoop, bark, vomit, choke, hack, hem, ahem, croup, convulse, expectorate, hawk

Examples from the Web for cough

Contemporary Examples of cough

Historical Examples of cough

  • Captain Smith affected a cough, and put his brown mare into a canter.

    Night and Morning, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

  • His father's cough had been bad all night, and this made his mother troubled and cross.

  • Mis' Eben Smith's got eight young ones down with the whoopin'-cough.

    Tiverton Tales

    Alice Brown

  • I then made him understand that I had a weak chest, and that the smoke made me cough.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • Here a cough interrupted him, and he paused and ran his hand through his hair.

British Dictionary definitions for cough


  1. (intr) to expel air or solid matter from the lungs abruptly and explosively through the partially closed vocal chords
  2. (intr) to make a sound similar to this
  3. (tr) to utter or express with a cough or coughs
  4. (intr) slang to confess to a crime
  1. an act, instance, or sound of coughing
  2. a condition of the lungs or throat that causes frequent coughing
Derived Formscougher, noun

Word Origin for cough

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

Word Origin and History for cough

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

cough in Medicine


  1. To expel air from the lungs suddenly and noisily, often to keep the respiratory passages free of irritating material.
  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.

cough in Science


[kôf, kŏf]
  1. 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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.