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 Nature Genetics on Monday, one team of researchers released their map of the genome of Naja naja, the Indian cobra. New York Times, "Word + Quiz: genome," 17 Mar. 2020 Mine is in a standard weave for a supple feel, but the double cobra and king cobra designs are pretty sweet, too. T. Edward Nickens, Field & Stream, "The 10 Best Rifles for Squirrel Hunting," 11 Sep. 2019 In 2016 and 2017, police said Boyles posted videos to YouTube showing him unboxing venomous snakes, including a Gaboon Viper, a Monocle cobra and an Indo-Chinese Spitting Cobra. Justin Jouvenal, Washington Post, "YouTube personality accused of endangering people with venomous snakes," 14 Mar. 2018 To find out, Clevers and colleagues removed stem cells from the venom glands of nine snake species—including the cape coral cobra and the western diamondback rattlesnake—and placed them in a cocktail of hormones and proteins called growth factors. Erin Malsbury, Science | AAAS, "Tiny organs grown from snake glands produce real venom," 23 Jan. 2020 The passenger, 48, owned a reptile shop in Kuwait, and was attempting to transport an Egyptian cobra in his carry-on bag. Andrea Wurzburger,, "11 Horrifying Times Animals Made Their Way Onto Airplanes," 10 Dec. 2019 In the clip, captured at ’s Kruger National Park, a Cape cobra, which would be intimidating to many much larger mammals, including this human, is seen lunging at a Cape ground squirrel. Melissa Locker, Time, "Tough Squirrel Mother Will Stop at Nothing to Protect the Babies From a Cobra in This Intense Standoff," 3 Mar. 2020 Researchers have assembled a near-complete genome for the Indian cobra that could aid drug development. Erin Malsbury, Science | AAAS, "Tiny organs grown from snake glands produce real venom," 23 Jan. 2020 On the high end, Li says, only the rich can afford soup made with palm civet (a cat-size mammal native to jungles throughout Southeast Asia), fried cobra, or braised bear paw. National Geographic, "More Chinese push to end wildlife markets as WHO declares coronavirus emergency," 30 Jan. 2020

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

30 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cobra.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cobra

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cobra

Spanish Central: Translation of cobra

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

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