co·​gent ˈkō-jənt How to pronounce cogent (audio)
: appealing forcibly to the mind or reason : convincing
cogent evidence
: pertinent, relevant
a cogent analysis
: having power to compel or constrain
cogent forces
cogently adverb

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A cogent argument is one that really drives its point home because it is clear, coherent, and readily understandable, and perhaps also because of the etymological history of cogent. Cogent comes from the Latin verb cogere, meaning “to drive or force together.” Something described as cogent fuses thoughts and ideas into a meaningful whole that others can readily grasp and accept. A cogent explanation is a convincing one, and cogent analysis has us nodding along because it is clear and pertinent. Cogere was formed in Latin by combining the prefix co- with the verb agere, “to drive, lead, or act,” a root which is also the source of our familiar noun agent. Handily enough, one definition of agent is “a means or instrument by which a guiding intelligence achieves a result.” It follows logically then that cogency is often a worthwhile agent, indeed.

Choose the Right Synonym for cogent

valid, sound, cogent, convincing, telling mean having such force as to compel serious attention and usually acceptance.

valid implies being supported by objective truth or generally accepted authority.

a valid reason for being absent
a valid marriage

sound implies a basis of flawless reasoning or of solid grounds.

a sound proposal for reviving the economy

cogent may stress either weight of sound argument and evidence or lucidity of presentation.

the prosecutor's cogent summation won over the jury

convincing suggests a power to overcome doubt, opposition, or reluctance to accept.

a convincing argument for welfare reform

telling stresses an immediate and crucial effect striking at the heart of a matter.

a telling example of bureaucratic waste

Examples of cogent in a Sentence

… Honeyboy Edwards provides a cogent analysis of the shift within the blues over the years … David Hajdu, Mother Jones, September/October 2003
Your article provides cogent reading. Mario Cuomo, letter U.S. News & World Report23 Mar. 1992
Your arguments, whether or not one agrees with them, are generally cogent, and at times elegantly expressed. Willard R. Espy, letter Wall Street Journal24 Apr. 1990
The author … makes a cogent and finely nuanced case for the wisdom—indeed, the necessity of this vision. Marian Sandmaier, New York Times Book Review, 8 Feb. 1987
the results of the DNA fingerprinting were the most cogent evidence for acquittal
Recent Examples on the Web There is also a cogent and concise history of the violence and many injustices that have marked life in Palestinians’ shrinking territories. Stuart Miller, Los Angeles Times, 4 Oct. 2023 By focusing only on a meritless defense about Low's reasons for the alleged conduit scheme, Kenner failed to provide a cogent theory of defense. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, 18 Oct. 2023 But sometimes the government officials charged with speaking to the press manage to enhance our public discourse with cogent communication. James Freeman, WSJ, 27 Oct. 2023 The destructive storms that hit the Mediterranean region in 2023 provide a cogent case for the importance of adaptation. Mohammed Ombadi, The Conversation, 19 Sep. 2023 Last Friday’s Washington Week with The Atlantic on PBS might as well have been broadcast a year ago — a time when the press was still dedicated to debunking the notion that President Joe Biden was anything other than fit, cogent, and capable. Noah Rothman, National Review, 8 Sep. 2023 Maybe even Donald Trump, in one of his more cogent moments? Felipe De La Hoz, The New Republic, 11 Oct. 2023 In November 2010, in an address to the Indian Parliament, President Barack Obama cited the evergreen revolution as a cogent response to climate change and the frequent droughts affecting India’s harvests. Keith Schneider, New York Times, 28 Sep. 2023 The sum of its parts is a cogent mashup of studies and stats on self-esteem filtered through Nancherla’s personal experience, crafting a portrait of the social foibles that make and break her (and many of us). Meredith Maran, Los Angeles Times, 18 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cogent.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Latin cōgent-, cōgens, present participle of cōgere "to drive together, gather, compress, force, compel," from co-, variant before a vowel and h of com- com- + agere "to drive (cattle), be in motion, do" — more at agent

First Known Use

1659, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of cogent was in 1659


Dictionary Entries Near cogent

Cite this Entry

“Cogent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


co·​gent ˈkō-jənt How to pronounce cogent (audio)
: appealing forcibly to the mind : convincing
cogent evidence
a cogent argument
: being to the point : pertinent
some cogent remarks on the situation

More from Merriam-Webster on cogent

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