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cog·​nate ˈkäg-ˌnāt How to pronounce cognate (audio)
: of the same or similar nature : generically alike
the cognate fields of film and theater
: related by blood
a family cognate with another
also : related on the mother's side
: related by descent from the same ancestral language
Spanish and French are cognate languages.
of a word or morpheme : related by derivation, borrowing, or descent
English "eat" and German "essen" are cognate.
of a substantive : related to a verb usually by derivation and serving as its object to reinforce the meaning (such as song in "she sang a song")
cognately adverb


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: one that is cognate with another
"Eat" and "essen" are cognates.

Did you know?

The story of "cognate" is all relative: that is, it's all about relatives. Cognate words share an ancestor, like "allude" and "prelude" (which both trace to the Latin root ludere) and the English "brother" and the German Bruder (which are both related to the Greek phrater). Cognate languages, like French, Spanish, and Italian, descend from the same ancestral language. People related through a common ancestor are cognate, and groups of people, such as tribes, can be cognate to one another. "Cognate" also describes things related in a more figurative way, as in "cognate developments," "cognate disciplines," or "cognate problems." "Cognate" itself comes from the Latin cognatus which traces to Latin nasci meaning "to be born." Some words cognate to "cognate" include "innate," "nascent," "native," and "Renaissance."

Examples of cognate in a Sentence

Adjective English “eat” and German “essen” are cognate. Spanish and French are cognate languages.
Recent Examples on the Web
Remembering in daylight this sensation of awaking from a dreamworld to reality seemed cognate to the experience on the highway: the feeling of being ensorcelled and then awaking from it. John Crowley, Harper's Magazine, 8 Dec. 2021 The aspiring actress Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie) is cognate with the earlier film’s domineering, petulant, and voice-challenged silent-film diva Lina Lamont (who, in effect, gets a backstory here). Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 22 Dec. 2022 Hence his own always dubious business celebrity became cognate with the mantra of Making America Great Again. Kyle Edward Williams, The New Republic, 9 Dec. 2020 In their millenarian ardor and inflexible support for Israel, the neocons find themselves in a position precisely cognate to evangelical Christians—both groups of true believers trying to enact their vision through an apostate. Jacob Heilbrunn, The New Republic, 23 Jan. 2020
Ho's research, however, has shown yakamein (or its cognates like yock, yockamin, yet quo mein, or yet ca mein) on Chinese restaurant menus from New York, California, Las Vegas and Virginia, some of which predate the 1918 menu. Biju Sukumaran, Chron, 25 Apr. 2023 But the last word in his name is a cognate for the Chinese word for death, which bothers more superstitious clientele. Frank Shyong, Los Angeles Times, 1 Apr. 2023 The hackers sent him messages in an idiosyncratic English sprinkled with French and Italian cognates, and the style varied over time. David D. Kirkpatrick, The New Yorker, 27 Mar. 2023 Present, whose earthly cognate died nearly 200 years ago, is facing the prospect of retirement. Kyle Smith, WSJ, 10 Nov. 2022 With its Latin underpinnings, both English and Spanish share many cognates, words that have the same origin. Corbett Smith, Dallas News, 2 Apr. 2020 And though there’s debate about where the bean first appeared, there’s little dispute that the word coffee is a cognate of qahwah, the Arabic word for both the bean and drink. Hasan Dudar, Detroit Free Press, 13 Jan. 2018 That Hulu show was the evening’s big winner because its insane prophecy is the Left’s cognate to the broadcasts of those TV pastors who draw an endless pool of suckers by selling the notion that Judgment Day is surely right around the corner. Kyle Smith, National Review, 18 Sep. 2017 Like cognates between English and Spanish (which are due in part to their common descent from the Indo-European language family), there are similarities between Miami and other Algonquian languages. Lorraine Boissoneault, Smithsonian, 19 Apr. 2017

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

Word History



Latin cognatus, from co- + gnatus, natus, past participle of nasci to be born; akin to Latin gignere to beget — more at kin

First Known Use


circa 1645, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1754, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of cognate was circa 1645


Dictionary Entries Near cognate

Cite this Entry

“Cognate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Apr. 2024.

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