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 outside is swathed in cotton, while the inside is stuffed with polyester balls. Liz Stinson, Curbed, "Headless ergonomic body pillows: comforting or totally creepy?," 11 Oct. 2018 Simply soak a cotton bandanna or neck scarf in ice water, wring it out and tie loosely around your neck. Seattle Times Staff, The Seattle Times, "Frozen clothes, damp swimsuits — and a house hoser: How Seattle’s un-air-conditioned stay cool," 23 July 2018 Comfort Work's offerings include velvet, linen, and cotton-blend upholstery in nubby weaves and eye-catching stripes. Lilah Ramzi, Vogue, "5 Companies That Will Make Your Ikea Furniture Seem Custom-Made," 13 June 2018 Payne was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 1941, and picked cotton alongside his grandmother as a child. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Pioneering Black Journalist Les Payne Has Died at Age 76," 23 Mar. 2018 Use a clean cotton swab to scoop formulas out of a jar. Carly Cardellino, Cosmopolitan, "15 Acne-Causing Behaviors You Didn’t Even Know You Were Doing," 10 Jan. 2017 Beiler says that her brand provides timeless basics such as sleepwear, swimwear and plain cotton pieces. Jordyn Noennig, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "This Lake Country children's clothing store started then grew online. Now, it has a storefront in Delafield.," 12 July 2018 Mae Logo Elastic Cotton Hipster: A cotton-blend, hip-hugging undie that's cute and sporty should be in everyone's rotation. Susan Brickell,, "The Bra and Underwear Sale You Won't Want to Miss on Amazon Tomorrow," 12 July 2018 The talent also includes a 4-year-old cotton-candy expert and a 7-year-old movie whiz. Hal Boedeker,, "Trump interrupts 'Bachelorette'; CBS shifts 'TKO'," 8 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

17 Nov 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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Comments on cotton

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a private place of worship

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