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

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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 Made from 100 percent cotton, Brooklinen's Luxe sheets are an instant upgrade to anyone's ZZZ-catching game. Isabelle Kagan, USA TODAY, "The most comfortable sheets you can buy are finally on sale," 13 Feb. 2020 ZonLi blankets are made of soft, breathable cotton and come in five common size options. Billy Cadden, Popular Science, "Our favorite weighted blankets for a better night’s sleep," 31 Jan. 2020 Made with 97-percent cotton (and a touch of spandex for a little stretch), the fabric will be soft against your — and their — skin. Jessica Migala, NBC News, "Best Valentine's Day gifts for her (or them) 2020," 28 Jan. 2020 Roman shades are generally made with fabrics like linens, cotton, polyesters and tends to have a nice and soft look to it. The Washington Post, "Q&A: Trisha Roy of Barn & Willow on Window Treatments," 16 Jan. 2020 For five years the shipmates labored in the cotton, rice, and sugarcane fields. National Geographic, "," 16 Jan. 2020 Last year, the brand rolled out a new collection of bags made with water-resistant cotton, bearing a more polished look with pattern-free solid colors in the mix. Parija Kavilanz, CNN, "Vera Bradley wants to make paisley cool again," 14 Jan. 2020 In 1896, Ellis Griffin purchased 300 acres of land where his family raised cattle and farmed cotton, corn and wheat. Vincent T. Davis,, "Conservationists and descendants explore forgotten San Antonio African American cemetery," 12 Jan. 2020 The Resort collection features handwoven patterns on chemical-free fabrics and labels made from organic cotton, satin and recycled paper. Nandi Howard, Essence, "Dior Taps These Black Artist And More Jan/Feb Style News," 8 Jan. 2020 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.

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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

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Time Traveler for cotton

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

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Last Updated

24 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cotton.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2020.

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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

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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

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