cow·​er ˈkau̇(-ə)r How to pronounce cower (audio)
cowered; cowering; cowers

intransitive verb

: to shrink away or crouch especially for shelter from something that menaces, domineers, or dismays
They all cowered silently in their places, seeming to know in advance that some terrible thing was about to happen.George Orwell
Choose the Right Synonym for cower

fawn, toady, truckle, cringe, cower mean to behave abjectly before a superior.

fawn implies seeking favor by servile flattery or exaggerated attention.

waiters fawning over a celebrity

toady suggests the attempt to ingratiate oneself by an abjectly menial or subservient attitude.

toadying to his boss

truckle implies the subordination of oneself and one's desires or judgment to those of a superior.

truckling to a powerful lobbyist

cringe suggests a bowing or shrinking in fear or servility.

a cringing sycophant

cower suggests a display of abject fear in the company of threatening or domineering people.

cowering before a bully

Examples of cower in a Sentence

They cowered at the sight of the gun. She was cowering in the closet. I cowered behind the door.
Recent Examples on the Web But too many Republicans cowered on a Senate vote to convict. George Skelton, Los Angeles Times, 8 Jan. 2024 By cowering just behind Atlanta’s veneer of upward mobility and celebrity, mayors like Dickens effectively eschew valid critiques of their criminal legal system tactics. Essence, 10 Jan. 2024 Here was a man who, faced with Britain’s imperial collapse, did not cower but dashed around the world with a dinner jacket and a pistol. Daniel Immerwahr, The New Yorker, 8 Jan. 2024 The explosions scare babies and frighten animals, turning them into cowering creatures. Sun Sentinel Editorial Board, Sun Sentinel, 4 Jan. 2024 The mothers trapped in Gaza have spent the past month and a half cowering in fear as Israeli airstrikes shake the earth and ground forces encircle the north of the enclave. Hajar Harb, Washington Post, 17 Nov. 2023 Terrified students and professors cowered in classrooms and offices as the gunman roamed the top three floors of UNLV’s five-story Lee Business School. Rio Yamat, Fortune, 8 Dec. 2023 After cowering in the dining hall for hours with the sound of helicopters whirring overhead, Amerie Collins, an 18-year-old pre-nursing student, was looking to get far away from campus Wednesday evening. Rebecca Ellis, Los Angeles Times, 7 Dec. 2023 For more than two weeks villagers cowered in their basements. Ms. Dehtyar eventually emerged and drove in trepidation with her husband and son to the Ukrainian side of the frontline. Yurii Shyvala, New York Times, 3 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cower.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English couren, probably from Middle Low German kūren

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of cower was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near cower

Cite this Entry

“Cower.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


cow·​er ˈkau̇(-ə)r How to pronounce cower (audio)
: to shrink away or crouch down (as from fear)

More from Merriam-Webster on cower

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