[ kou-tou, -tou, koh- ]
/ ˈkaʊˈtaʊ, -ˌtaʊ, ˈkoʊ- /

verb (used without object)

to act in an obsequious manner; show servile deference.
to touch the forehead to the ground while kneeling, as an act of worship, reverence, apology, etc., especially in former Chinese custom.


the act of kowtowing.
Also kotow.

Origin of kowtow

First recorded in 1795–1805, kowtow is from the Chinese word kòutóu literally, knock (one's) head


kow·tow·er, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for kowtow

British Dictionary definitions for kowtow

/ (ˌkaʊˈtaʊ) /

verb (intr)

to touch the forehead to the ground as a sign of deference: a former Chinese custom
(often foll by to) to be servile or obsequious (towards)


the act of kowtowing

Derived forms of kowtow

kowtower, noun

Word Origin for kowtow

C19: from Chinese k'o t'ou, from k'o to strike, knock + t'ou head
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