[ koul ]
/ kaʊl /
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verb (used with object)
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Origin of cowl

before 1000; Middle English cou(e)le,Old English cugele, cūle<Late Latin cuculla monk's hood, variant of Latin cucullus hood

Other definitions for cowl (2 of 2)

[ koul ]
/ kaʊl /

Jane, 1884–1950, U.S. actress and playwright.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does cowl mean?

A cowl is a hood, especially a loose one. The hooded robe worn by some monks is called a cowl.

Cowl is also used to refer to several objects that function as hoods, such as parts of some vehicles and the coverings at the top of chimneys. It can also be used as a verb meaning to cover something. More specifically, it can mean to make someone a monk.

Example: The monk donned his cowl and left his bunk for morning prayer.

Where does cowl come from?

The first records of cowl come from before 1000. It comes from the Middle English coule, which derives from the Late Latin cuculla, meaning “monk’s hood.” This is a variant of the Latin cucullus, simply meaning “hood.”

Monks have known for wearing hooded robes for a long time, and the association between monks and their cowls continues today. The hood on a monk’s robe is often loose, causing it to drape around the face. When we call a hood a cowl, we’re often referring to one in this style. In fashion design, a cowl refers to a part of a shirt or dress that’s draped near the neck in a way that resembles a monk’s cowl.

In a chimney, the cowl is the hoodlike covering at the very top, above the opening, that helps with ventilation. Cowl is also used as the name of a similar object attached to the top of a locomotive’s smokestack to prevent sparks from flying everywhere (it’s also called a spark arrester).

In a car, you know what the hood is. Well, the part that supports the hood (and the windshield) is called the cowl. In aircraft, the cowl (or cowling) is a housing or removable covering for the engine.

Batman is known for wearing a “cape and cowl”—the cowl refers to his bat mask.

Did you know ... ?

What are some synonyms for cowl?

What are some words that share a root or word element with cowl

What are some words that often get used in discussing cowl?



How is cowl used in real life?

A lot of people might recognize a monk’s robe, but they might not know it’s called a cowl. In most other contexts, cowl is a fairly technical word mostly used by people with specialized knowledge.



Try using cowl!

Is cowl used correctly in the following sentence?

He cowled at me angrily.

How to use cowl in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for cowl

/ (kaʊl) /

verb (tr)
to cover or provide with a cowl
to make a monk of

Word Origin for cowl

Old English cugele, from Late Latin cuculla cowl, from Latin cucullus covering, cap, hood
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