[ kood; unstressed kuhd ]
See synonyms for could on
auxiliary verb
  1. a simple past tense of can1.

  2. (used to express possibility): I wonder who that could be at the door. That couldn't be true.

  1. (used to express conditional possibility or ability): You could do it if you tried.

  2. (used in making polite requests): Could you open the door for me, please?

  3. (used in asking for permission): Could I borrow your pen?

  4. (used in offering suggestions or advice): You could write and ask for more information. You could at least have called me.

Origin of could

First recorded in 1450–1500; alteration of late Middle English coude, coud, Old English cūthe; modern -l- from would1, should

usage note For could

See care.

Words that may be confused with could

Words Nearby could Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use could in a sentence

  • And Glora and Alan—in our present size-could doubtless disembark safely.

  • If only she could summon him from the moonlight out there; if only she were a witch-could see him, know where he was, what doing!

    Saint's Progress | John Galsworthy
  • He was all innuendo and strange hints and whispered secrets, and I-could-if-I-woulds.

    Nights | Elizabeth Robins Pennell
  • Anthony said you-could hear Emmy's tongue striking the roof of her-mouth all thee time.

    The Tree of Heaven | May Sinclair

British Dictionary definitions for could


/ (kʊd) /

verb(takes an infinitive without to or an implied infinitive)
  1. used as an auxiliary to make the past tense of can 1

  2. used as an auxiliary, esp in polite requests or in conditional sentences, to make the subjunctive mood of can 1 could I see you tonight?; she'd telephone if she could

  1. used as an auxiliary to indicate suggestion of a course of action: you could take the car tomorrow if it's raining

  2. (often foll by well) used as an auxiliary to indicate a possibility: he could well be a spy

Origin of could

Old English cūthe; influenced by would, should; see can 1

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with could


see can (could) do with; see with half an eye, could. Also see under can; couldn't.

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