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 The Captains of our cobra Kai ship, leading us to glory daily, without your leadership we would be lost in the waters. Dory Jackson,, "Cobra Kai Stars Celebrate the End of Shooting Season 4 amid COVID-19: 'Officially Wrapped'," 4 May 2021 Why is God turning Moses’s staff into a cobra that devours two other snakes, anyway? Kyle Smith, National Review, "The Undying Glory of The Ten Commandments," 3 Apr. 2021 One of the two mummies had a crown decorated with horns and a cobra on its forehead. Fox News, "Archaeologists in Egypt uncover 2,000-year-old mummy with gold tongue," 5 Feb. 2021 If your low back is too tight, open the legs as wide as the mat and perform cobra. Stephanie Mansour, CNN, "How to modify popular yoga poses if you're super inflexible," 17 Jan. 2021 Alarmed by a surge of fatal cobra bites in the area, Calmette—who later gained fame as an inventor of the tuberculosis vaccine—applied the principles of immunization and vaccination to snake venom. Myles Karp, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Lab Saving the World From Snake Bites," 21 Oct. 2020 In Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism however, the naga, a semi-divine group of people who were half human, half cobra, are viewed as powerful protectors. Michella Oré, Glamour, "What Do Dreams About Snakes Mean," 30 Dec. 2020 Now, a team of researchers has taken this exact strategy with the genome of the India cobra (Naja naja), one of the most dangerous snakes in the world. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "Newly Sequenced Indian Cobra Genome Could Lead to Better Antivenoms," 10 Jan. 2020 And a snake, identified via the scans as a juvenile Egyptian cobra, seems to have been killed by a whipping motion, and its kidneys showed signs that it had been deprived of water during its life. Clara Moskowitz, Scientific American, "Unprecedented 3-D view inside Animal Mummies," 4 Dec. 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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Statistics for cobra

Last Updated

7 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Cobra.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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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 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:
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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cobra

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

Comments on cobra

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