cow·​er | \ ˈkau̇(-ə)r \
cowered; cowering; cowers

Definition of cower

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

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Synonyms for cower


cringe, grovel, quail

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The entire chain of events — from the first crashing of the glass doors to the removal of a suspect by the authorities — lasted only minutes, but left five newspaper employees dead and others cowering beneath desks. New York Times, "Gunman’s Rampage Turned Quiet Newsroom Into Chaos," 29 June 2018 Those of us who support sending troops to help secure the U.S. border aren’t cowering in fear of a migrant invasion. WSJ, "Consider the Assimilationablity of Refugees," 8 Nov. 2018 If yesterday’s terraces were just little rectangular slabs tacked onto the sides of buildings — on which a tenant might cower, or perhaps more likely, rarely step foot — today’s are becoming increasingly generous and welcoming. Jane Margolies, New York Times, "Terraces to Look At and Linger On," 26 Apr. 2018 Ibrahim plays the gesture as automatic: not angry, not cowering, just reflexively bracing her body for the inevitable hit. Brendan Kiley, The Seattle Times, "For all its horrors, ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ at Seattle Rep feels uncomfortably comforting," 15 Oct. 2018 The city of 600,000 people was largely deserted on Saturday afternoon as nervous residents cowered in their homes, listening to the gunfire and airstrikes with a growing sense of trepidation. New York Times, "Battles Rage Around International Airport in Strategic Yemeni City," 16 June 2018 Doubly blessed with an enormous voice and the savvy with which to use it, Thimes dominates the stage, her larger-than-life presence reflecting a personality that does not cower from challenge. Howard Reich,, "Singer Denise Thimes puts down roots in Chicago," 5 July 2018 It’s hard to appreciate when something like that happens in a newsroom, having to cower under their desks in that awful scenario. Michael Levenson,, "Fears of violence unsettle newsrooms," 29 June 2018 On March 16, 1968, Hugh Thompson, an Army helicopter pilot, landed his aircraft between advancing American forces and cowering Vietnamese civilians who had just seen more than 500 of their fellow villagers brutally slaughtered. Paul Thornton,, "1990s California would have been kinder to Trump," 17 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cower.' 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 cower

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for cower

Middle English couren, probably from Middle Low German kūren

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Dictionary Entries near cower







Cow Fulani

Statistics for cower

Last Updated

26 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for cower

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

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More Definitions for cower



English Language Learners Definition of cower

: to move back or bend your body down because you are afraid


cow·​er | \ ˈkau̇-ər \
cowered; cowering

Kids Definition of cower

: to shrink away or crouch down shivering (as from fear) The thunder made our dog cower.

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More from Merriam-Webster on cower

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cower

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cower

Spanish Central: Translation of cower

Nglish: Translation of cower for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cower for Arabic Speakers

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