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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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 coral snake is a whole different genus from the other venomous snakes of Alabama, being more closely related to the cobra or black mamba than the copperhead. Dennis Pillion |, al, 1 Aug. 2022 The vulture stood for Upper Egypt, for instance, and the cobra for Lower Egypt; both were included in the regalia of Tut, who presided over the united regions. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, 23 June 2022 Nekhbet is depicted wearing the bowling-pin-like crown of Upper Egypt with a vulture’s head, and Wadjet wears the red crown of Lower Egypt with a cobra’s head. Jane Recker, Smithsonian Magazine, 26 May 2022 The key is to focus on keeping your head and chest up, like a cobra, while swimming those laps. Graham Averill, Outside Online, 20 Mar. 2020 In 2012, a passenger -- who happened to be the owner of a reptile shop -- smuggled a cobra in his carry-on luggage on an Egyptair flight and was found out when the snake got loose and bit his hand. Lilit Marcus, CNN, 14 Feb. 2022 The zebra cobra was revealed to belong to TikTok user Christopher Gifford whose videos highlight his venomous snake collection. Gabriela Miranda, USA TODAY, 7 July 2021 In seasons one through three, alliances shifted with the speed of, well, a cobra on the attack. Toni Fitzgerald, Forbes, 27 Dec. 2021 These yoga poses include foundational postures like the hero pose, tabletop, downward dog, crescent lunge, baby cobra, forward fold, Warrior II, child’s pose, pigeon pose, camel pose, and seated forward fold. Christa Sgobba, SELF, 17 Nov. 2021 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near cobra

cob pipe


cobra de capello

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Statistics for cobra

Last Updated

11 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Cobra.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for cobra


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


\ ˈkō-brə \

Legal Definition of COBRA

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

More from Merriam-Webster on cobra

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cobra

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


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