co·​bra | \ ˈkō-brə \

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

That ring has since been upgraded to a slightly more serious one designed by Solange Azagury Partridge and fashioned to look like a giant, fang-bearing cobra. Jennifer Wright, Town & Country, "Hard to Believe This Wasn't the Wedding of the Summer, or All Time," 9 Sep. 2015 What do a Siberian prison, a cobra pit and a Gilbert Gottfried concert have in common? Matt Calkins, The Seattle Times, "What was that, Sebastian Janikowski? Decision not to tackle 49ers returner costly in Seahawks loss," 17 Dec. 2018 Medical officials rushed to find an antivenom for a Pinconning Township, Michigan man who was bitten by his pet albino monocled cobra earlier this month. Madeline Farber, Fox News, "Michigan man hospitalized for rare cobra bite; officials scramble to find antivenom," 31 July 2018 The wrangler seemed to catch the cobra but the snake managed to get away. Matthew Martinez, star-telegram, "When a 6-foot snake slithered out of his toilet, dad knocked son over running away, he says," 12 June 2018 Even though cobras will eat anything, ranging from other snakes to birds or large rodents, apparently eight eggs was a bit too much for this gluttonous serpent. Fox News, "WARNING, GRAPHIC IMAGES: Greedy snake tries to eat 8 chicken eggs at once, fails miserably," 13 Apr. 2018 After a few weeks, Calmette extracted the horse blood and spun out antibodies that targeted cobra venom. Kyle Dickman, Outside Online, "A Rattle with Death in Yosemite," 20 June 2018 An 8-foot cobra was found inside a toilet in an apartment in Pretoria, South Africa. Matthew Martinez, star-telegram, "When a 6-foot snake slithered out of his toilet, dad knocked son over running away, he says," 12 June 2018 The pose requires focus and flexibility, but not the pliability of a cobra. New York Times, "Corrections: June 19, 2018," 19 June 2018

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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Statistics for cobra

Last Updated

25 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for cobra

The first known use of cobra was in 1802

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More Definitions for cobra



English Language Learners Definition of cobra

: a very poisonous snake found in Asia and Africa


co·​bra | \ ˈkō-brə \

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 \

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:
b : ringhals
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

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