adjective cog·nate \ ˈkäg-ˌnāt \

Definition of cognate

1 : of the same or similar nature : generically alike
  • the cognate fields of film and theater
2 : related by blood
  • a family cognate with another
; also : related on the mother's side
3 a : related by descent from the same ancestral language
  • Spanish and French are cognate languages.
b of a word or morpheme : related by derivation, borrowing, or descent
  • English "eat" and German "essen" are cognate.
c 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")



cognate was our Word of the Day on 02/04/2009. Hear the podcast!

Examples of cognate in a Sentence

  1. English “eat” and German “essen” are cognate.

  2. Spanish and French are cognate languages.

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."

Origin and Etymology of cognate

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

Other Language Terms




Definition of cognate

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

Recent Examples of cognate from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cognate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of cognate


Other Language Terms

COGNATE Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of cognate for English Language Learners

  • linguistics : having the same origin

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easily led, taught, or controlled

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