[ kawf, kof ]
See 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.

  1. 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.

  1. a sound similar to a cough, a machine gun, or an engine firing improperly.

Verb Phrases
  1. cough up, Slang.

    • to relinquish, especially reluctantly; contribute; give.

    • 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

Other words from cough

  • cougher, noun

Words that may be confused with cough Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use cough in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for cough


/ (kɒf) /

  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

  1. (tr) to utter or express with a cough or coughs

  2. (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

Origin of cough

Old English cohhetten; related to Middle Dutch kochen, Middle High German kūchen to wheeze; probably of imitative origin

Derived forms of cough

  • cougher, noun

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

Scientific definitions for cough


[ 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.