court

[ kawrt, kohrt ]
/ kɔrt, koʊrt /

noun

verb (used with object)

verb (used without object)

to seek another's love; woo.
(of animals) to engage in certain species-specific behaviors in order to attract individuals of the opposite sex for mating.

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Idioms for court

    hold court,
    1. to have a formal assembly of a judicial tribunal or one held by a sovereign.
    2. to be surrounded by one's disciples or admirers, giving advice, exchanging gossip, receiving compliments, etc.
    out of court,
    1. without a legal hearing; privately: The case will be settled out of court.
    2. out of the question; undeserving of discussion: This wild scheme is entirely out of court.

Origin of court

1125–75; Middle English co(u)rt<Anglo-French, Old French <Latin cohort- (stem of cohors) farmyard; see cohort

OTHER WORDS FROM court

outcourt, verb (used with object)un·court·ed, adjectiveun·court·ing, adjectivewell-courted, adjective

WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH court

caught, court , cot

Definition for court (2 of 2)

Court
[ kawrt, kohrt ]
/ kɔrt, koʊrt /

noun

Margaret Smith, born 1942, Australian tennis player.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

BEHIND THE WORD

Where does court come from?

Court of law. Tennis court. Courtship. Courtyard. Courtesy. Ever notice that all of these words and phrases—and many others—include court in some form? That’s no coincidence.

The word court entered English around 1125–75. It comes from French, ultimately from the Latin cohors, variously meaning “farmyard, armed force, cohort, retinue.” More about that Latin noun cohors in the next section.

Today, if someone says they went to court, they are referring to the place where lawyers argue cases, juries weigh evidence, and judges issue sentences. (We hope they weren’t in any trouble.) The legal senses of court are among the word’s oldest, found at least by the end of the 1200s in the sense of “assembly of judges.”

Even older is the royal court. Think of those medieval princes and princesses doing their princely and princessly things in courts. Found in the mid- to late 1100s, that court originally referred to the place where a sovereign lived, as well as to an assembly that that ruler held.

Whether used of royalty and law, these early senses of court—still in use today—suggest an underlying idea of an official group gathered together in an area set aside for special purposes.

Speaking of physical spaces, many sports are played on courts, including basketball, volleyball, and tennis and other racquet sports. The original sports court, as far as the word is concerned, was for tennis. This draws on that basic sense of court as “an enclosed area.”

Dig deeper

How are the words courtesy and courtship connected to court? Courtesy (“polite behavior”), along with the adjective courteous, comes from French words meaning “having manners fitting for the court of a prince.” Fun fact: curtsy,“a respectful bow made by women and girls, consisting of bending the knees and lowering the body,” is a variant of courtesy.

Courtship stems from court in its verb sense of “to woo,” as in He courted his partner over romantic emails and text messages. Court, as a verb, can also mean “to win the favor (of another).” These senses are connected to the idea of paying court—homage, attention, and well, courtesy—to someone, as they historically would have at a court.

Learn even more words about related to court at our entries for courtier and courtesan.

Did you know ... ?

In the previous section, we noted that court ultimately comes from Latin cohors. One of its meanings was “armed force”—and originally from a particular place or military camp, as if grouped, or enclosed, together. Cohors, as you may have guessed by now, is the source of the English cohort. In ancient Rome, a cohort was specifically one of the 10 divisions in an ancient Roman legion, numbering from 300 to 600 soldiers. Cohort entered English around 1475–85 and evolved to more generally mean “a group or company” and “an associate or accomplice.”

The Latin cohors also meant “farmyard.” If we break down this word, we get co- (“with, together”) and a form related to hortus, meaning “garden.” It’s not too hard to imagine a garden and a yard as enclosed area, like a court. And guess what? Those three words—garden, yard, and court—are all related. You may recognize hortus in one of its English derivatives: horticulture.

Example sentences from the Web for court

British Dictionary definitions for court (1 of 2)

court
/ (kɔːt) /

noun

verb

Word Origin for court

C12: from Old French, from Latin cohors cohort

British Dictionary definitions for court (2 of 2)

Court
/ (kɔːt) /

noun

Margaret (née Smith). born 1942, Australian tennis player, winner of a record 24 Grand Slam singles titles: Australian Open champion 1960–66, 1969–71, and 1973; US Open champion 1962, 1965, 1969–70, and 1973; Wimbledon champion 1963, 1965, and 1970; French Open champion 1962, 1965, 1969–70, and 1973
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

Idioms and Phrases with court

court

see ball's in your court; day in court; friend in court; hold court; kangaroo court; laugh out of court; pay court to.

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