Origin and Etymology of kowtow
Chinese (Beijing) kòutóu, from kòu to knock + tóu head
First Known Use: 1804
Simple Definition of kowtow
: to agree too easily or eagerly to do what someone else wants you to do : to obey someone with power in a way that seems weak
Full Definition of kowtow
1 : to show obsequious deference : fawn <kowtows to the boss>
2 : to kneel and touch the forehead to the ground in token of homage, worship, or deep respect
Examples of kowtow in a sentence
<you can try kowtowing to the boss, but he'll see right through you>
Did You Know?
Kowtow originated as a noun referring to the act of kneeling and touching one's head to the ground as a salute or act of worship to a revered authority. In traditional China this ritual was performed by commoners making requests to the local magistrate, by the emperor to the shrine of Confucius, or by foreign representatives appearing before the emperor to establish trade relations. (In the late 18th century, some Western nations resisted performing the ritual, which acknowledged the Chinese emperor as the "son of heaven.") The word kowtow derives from Chinese "koutou," formed by combining the verb "kou" ("to knock") with the noun "tou" ("head"). The noun had arrived in English by 1804, and the earliest evidence for the verb dates from 1826.
First Known Use of kowtow
KOWTOW Defined for Kids
Definition of kowtow for Students
: to obey a person in a position of power in a way that seems weak : show overly respectful attention <"… don't expect me to kowtow to you, mortal, just because old Barnacle-Beard is your father." — Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief>
Seen and Heard
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