noun, often attributive
cot·​ton | \ ˈkä-tᵊn How to pronounce cotton (audio) \

Definition of cotton

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1a : a soft usually white fibrous substance composed of the hairs surrounding the seeds of various erect freely branching tropical plants (genus Gossypium) of the mallow family
b : a plant producing cotton especially : one grown for its cotton
c : a crop of cotton
2a : fabric made of cotton
b : yarn spun from cotton
3 : a downy cottony substance produced by various plants (such as the cottonwood)


cottoned; cottoning\ ˈkät-​niŋ How to pronounce cottoning (audio) , ˈkä-​tᵊn-​iŋ \

Definition of cotton (Entry 2 of 4)

intransitive verb

1 : to take a liking used with tocottons to people easily
2 : to come to understand used with to or on tocottoned on to the fact that our children work furiously— H. M. McLuhan


biographical name (1)
Cot·​ton | \ ˈkä-tᵊn How to pronounce Cotton (audio) \

Definition of Cotton (Entry 3 of 4)

Charles 1630–1687 English author and translator


biographical name (2)

Definition of Cotton (Entry 4 of 4)

John 1585–1652 American (English-born) Puritan clergyman

Illustration of cotton

Illustration of cotton


cotton: 1 flowering branch; 2 fruit, unopened; 3 fruit, partly opened

In the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of cotton in a Sentence

Noun They are in the field picking cotton. She doesn't wear cotton in the winter.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Breathable clothing is best, as heavy cottons can absorb sweat and become heavy or cause chafing. Jeff Forward, Houston Chronicle, "Running expert offers preparation tips for The Woodlands Marathon," 26 Feb. 2020 At the depth of the depression, cotton hit its lowest price in 200 years and steel production fell to 15 percent of capacity. Matt Stoller, Wired, "Covid-19 Will Mark the End of Affluence Politics," 25 Feb. 2020 Imagine cotton in different colors straight from the plant. Lee Roop |, al, "Alabama scientists imagine colored, fireproof and bacteria-resistant cotton," 11 Feb. 2020 Jo Malone London Poppy & Barley is peppered with cotton-soft barley, black currant and floral poppies to interpret an English meadow; $140, at Jo Malone, Beverly Hills or at Meg Hemphill, The Hollywood Reporter, "6 Woodsy Scents for All Genders," 30 Oct. 2019 Because the shorts have a drawstring instead of an elastic waistband and the cotton is stiff, some might want to size up for a comfier fit. Megan Spurrell, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Best Pajama Sets, Whether You're Traveling With Your In-Laws or College Roommates," 5 Sep. 2019 Still, cotton in northeast South and North Carolina are more vulnerable to strong winds and flooding, which could hurt quality. Marvin G. Perez,, "Orange juice sinks with Florida groves set to escape Dorian fury," 3 Sep. 2019 Wellness Wardrobe Organic cotton is de rigueur in this crunchy... Eimear Lynch, WSJ, "Venice Beach Souvenirs: A Discriminating Shopper’s Guide," 5 July 2019 Kids at heart can also participate in watermelon- or cotton-candy-eating competitions and belly-flop contests. Laura Latzko, azcentral, "Suds & Slides: It's like summer camp for adults. With beer.," 18 June 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The animals don't cotton to coyotes but are docile and shy toward people and Kias. Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press, "2021 Kia Seltos brings Telluride style to affordable small SUV," 17 Feb. 2020 Conscious consumers have cottoned onto this, and are now looking for products formulated with zero, or very little, water or those that can be used without (or with less) water., "The Boom Of Water-Free Beauty," 6 Feb. 2020 The lad is practically addicted to diving at this stage, but at least everyone seems to be cottoning on to that fact., "LMAO: The Best Memes & Funnies From Around European Football This Gameweek," 3 Sep. 2019 Disappointingly, for those of us who cottoned to the folktale of a new economy driven by brilliant little Edisons and Teslas in Everlane, technological breakthroughs were, by 2015, believed to be too easily copied. Wired, "Tech Marketing Is Losing Its Cool," 22 Oct. 2019 She’s in love with a fresh-faced young sailor (Burke Swanson), whom Serafina, having at last cottoned on to Rosario’s infidelity, treats like a seasoned predator. Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker, "American Dreams in “The Rose Tattoo” and “Soft Power”," 21 Oct. 2019 But Liverpool supporters cottoned on to his comments pretty quickly, taking the very first opportunity to correct the two-time Premier League champion., "Pep Guardiola Winds Up Liverpool Twitter With Comments on Aymeric Laporte," 30 Aug. 2019 As more players adopted the Panenka, goalkeepers cottoned on. The Economist, "Lots of investors bet on “factors”, such as size, value and momentum," 18 July 2019 But in the past year or so, some manufacturers have cottoned on to the idea and started releasing devices that can keep up with more than a dozen tabs. Dieter Bohn, The Verge, "HP Chromebook x2 review: semi-pro," 27 Sep. 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of cotton


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1605, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for cotton


Middle English coton, from Anglo-French cotun, from Old Italian cotone, from Arabic quṭun, quṭn

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about cotton

Time Traveler for cotton

Time Traveler

The first known use of cotton was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about cotton

Statistics for cotton

Last Updated

23 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cotton.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Mar. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for cotton


How to pronounce Cotton (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of cotton

: a soft, white material that grows on the seeds of a tall plant and that is used to make cloth also : the plants on which this material grows
: cloth that is made of cotton also : clothing that is made of this cloth
chiefly British : yarn that is made of cotton


cot·​ton | \ ˈkä-tᵊn How to pronounce cotton (audio) \

Kids Definition of cotton

1 : a soft fluffy usually white material made up of twisted hairs that surrounds the seeds of a tall plant of warm regions and is spun into thread or yarn
2 : thread, yarn, or cloth made from cotton

Other Words from cotton

cotton adjective cotton handkerchiefs


noun, often attributive
cot·​ton | \ ˈkät-ᵊn How to pronounce cotton (audio) \

Medical Definition of cotton

1 : a soft usually white fibrous substance composed of the hairs surrounding the seeds of various erect freely branching tropical plants (genus Gossypium) of the mallow family and used extensively in making threads, yarns, and fabrics (as in surgical dressings)
2 : a plant producing cotton especially : one grown for its cotton

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on cotton

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cotton

Spanish Central: Translation of cotton

Nglish: Translation of cotton for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cotton for Arabic Speakers

Comments on cotton

What made you want to look up cotton? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

March 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • field of crocuses
  • Which is a synonym of rectitudinous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!