co·​bra | \ ˈkō-brə How to pronounce cobra (audio) \

Definition of cobra

: any of several venomous Asian and African elapid snakes (genera Naja and Ophiophagus) that when excited expand the skin of the neck into a hood by movement of the anterior ribs also : any of several related African snakes

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Did You Know?

During the early part of the 16th century, Portuguese traders took control of cities along India's western coast. During this period of contact, the Portuguese became familiar with some of India's animal life. One animal they noticed was a poisonous snake that could expand the skin of its neck to form a hood. The Portuguese called this snake cobra de capello, meaning “snake with a hood.” The Portuguese name was first borrowed into English in the 17th century. By the 19th century the name had become shortened to cobra.

Examples of cobra in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In March, officials removed 20 venomous snakes from a neighboring apartment, including 12 cobras. Sonja Haller, USA TODAY, "Brave grandma kills 4.5-foot-long cobra with shovel to protect neighborhood kids," 25 June 2019 His timing is, as always, cobra-strike precise; his smile is both conspiratorial and expansive. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, "The 10 Best Movie Performances of 2019," 26 Nov. 2019 During their colonial rule of India, the British government began to worry about the number of venomous cobras in Delhi. K.n.c., The Economist, "How what’s in our heads changes what’s in the world," 15 Nov. 2019 Odom played along with the bit, logging online and buying a black headband with a yellow cobra outline similar to Johnny’s. Don Norcross, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Cerebral quarterback seems to pass every test," 25 Sep. 2019 Frog and cobra venom, Viagra, cocaine, heart medicines and steroids have all been detected in drug tests., "Only a few people, however, knew the secret that Baffert carried with him into the winner’s circle that day: Justify had failed a drug test weeks before the first race in the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby. That meant Justify should not have run in the Derby, if the sport’s rules were followed.," 9 June 2018 Frog and cobra venom, Viagra, cocaine, heart medicines and steroids have all been detected in drug tests. Joe Drape, New York Times, "Justify Failed a Drug Test Before Winning the Triple Crown," 11 Sep. 2019 Police said Monday that the cobra’s whereabouts are still unknown. Washington Post, "Flour trail and evacuations: German city seeks escaped cobra," 26 Aug. 2019 While officials believe the cobra is likely in the cellar, people living in the area have been warned to avoid walking through high grass. Linda Givetash, NBC News, "Deadly cobra on the loose in German town, 30 residents evacuated," 29 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cobra.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of cobra

1802, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for cobra

Portuguese cobra (de capello), literally, hooded snake, from Latin colubra snake

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Time Traveler for cobra

Time Traveler

The first known use of cobra was in 1802

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Statistics for cobra

Last Updated

27 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Cobra.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 23 January 2020.

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More Definitions for cobra


How to pronounce cobra (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of cobra

: a very poisonous snake found in Asia and Africa


co·​bra | \ ˈkō-brə How to pronounce cobra (audio) \

Kids Definition of cobra

: a very poisonous snake of Asia and Africa that puffs out the skin around its neck into a hood when threatened


co·​bra | \ ˈkō-brə How to pronounce cobra (audio) \

Medical Definition of cobra

1 : any of several very venomous Asian and African elapid snakes of the genera Naja and Ophiophagus that when excited expand the skin of the neck into a broad hood by movement of the anterior ribs — see indian cobra, king cobra
2 : either of two African snakes that spit their venom from a distance:
3 : mamba

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\ ˈkō-brə \

Legal Definition of COBRA

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986 — see also Employee Retirement Income Security Act

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More from Merriam-Webster on cobra

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cobra

Spanish Central: Translation of cobra

Nglish: Translation of cobra for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about cobra

Comments on cobra

What made you want to look up cobra? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


out of the ordinary or unreasonable

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