noun, often attributive
cot·ton | \ ˈkä-tᵊn \

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, ˈkä-tᵊn-iŋ \

Definition of cotton (Entry 2 of 4)

intransitive verb

1 : to take a liking used with to cottons to people easily

2 : to come to understand used with to or on to cottoned on to the fact that our children work furiously —H. M. McLuhan


biographical name (1)
Cot·ton | \ ˈkä-tᵊn \

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

Examples of cotton in a Sentence


They are in the field picking cotton. She doesn't wear cotton in the winter.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The Indian women who work with the Anchal Project are paid a fair living wage for their work that involves making intricately hand-stitched quilts, scarves, pillows, jackets and table linens from organic cotton and vintage saris. Kirby Adams, The Courier-Journal, "These one-of-a-kind textiles are empowering Louisville women," 13 July 2018 Or put a blanket or towel between your skin and the ground; natural fibers such as cotton and wool do not interfere with grounding. Carrie Dennett,, "Could walking barefoot on grass improve your health? Some science suggests it can.," 11 July 2018 Soybeans fell to a two-year low last week, and prices for many grain, meat, cotton and dairy products have also declined. Hema Parmar,, "Iconic brands feel tariff pain, and corporate America braces for more," 27 June 2018 The clothes, mostly cottons and silks, were remarkably well-preserved in Mexico City’s climate. Hamish Bowles, Vogue, "Behind the Personal Branding of Frida Kahlo," 18 June 2018 The sleeping bag is lined with soft cotton and filled with durable, lofty polyester batting so your kiddo will be well rested in the morning for the great lightsaber battle. Mandy Ferreira, Sunset, "9 Adorable Youth Sleeping Bags," 22 Jan. 2018 The neighborhood was first laid out in 1832 after the Louisiana Purchase as a place for American residents of the city to settle down, many made wealthy by the cotton and sugar industries. Kelsey Kloss, ELLE Decor, "7 Best Things To Do In New Orleans That Deviate From The Expected," 3 Mar. 2017 Much of the Central Valley economy has come to depend on almond farming, as lower-value crops such as cotton and alfalfa have surrendered land to new orchards. Dale Kasler, Phillip Reese And Ryan Sabalow, sacbee, "California almonds, partly blamed for water shortage, now dropping in price | The Sacramento Bee," 30 Jan. 2016 Every few months, Google would cotton on to the group's tactics and begin blocking its messages. Raphael Satter,, "Elusive Russian hackers unmasked by U.S. special counsel," 13 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

But the last two months, batters have cottoned onto him. Maria Torres, kansascity, "Home runs bite Jakob Junis again as Royals lose to Brewers," 26 June 2018 By the 1980s, the rallying crowd had cottoned on and started sending increasingly specialized cars to Colorado. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "This electric car could set a new record to the top of Pikes Peak this year," 19 Mar. 2018 If relay is 15% cheaper than conventional trucking, as Mr Garg claims, others will cotton on. The Economist, "The Indian pony expressRivigo is helping the Indian truck-driving industry out of a jam," 30 Sep. 2017 But not everyone will cotton to a former business district that still lacks many residential amenities. C. J. Hughes, New York Times, "Where to Live When the L Train Shuts Down," 26 May 2017 His loyal readers will cotton to the idea — calico to it! — that the future lies in the fun, and thus that the future is fun. Virginia Heffernan, New York Times, "Steven Johnson on How Play Shaped the World," 22 Nov. 2016

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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Last Updated

22 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for cotton

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

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More Definitions for cotton



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

: yarn that is made of cotton


cot·ton | \ ˈkä-tᵊn \

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 \

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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