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

And certainly not the Republicans cowering in Congress. Yvonne Abraham,, "Hey undocumented immigrants, it’s all your fault," 16 June 2018 Officers said people cowered in a corner away from Elifritz or up against a wall behind officers who had formed a physical barrier. Aimee Green,, "Police officers describe 'pandemonium' during fatal homeless shelter shooting," 11 June 2018 On Snapchat, a student cowering with classmates under their desks records as the gunman, unseen, lets off more than a dozen deafening shots from the hallway or the next classroom over. James Burnett, Anchorage Daily News, "Mass shootings have started to look, sound and feel the same – and that’s a problem," 17 Feb. 2018 The dinosaur cowers for a couple seconds, then charges at its prey, seemingly undamaged. Alessandra Potenza, The Verge, "Were real dinosaurs as bulletproof as the one in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom?," 19 June 2018 Fay ran to his truck, where his dog cowered on the floor, and took off. Leah Sottile,, "Gone ‘squatchin’: How to hunt for Bigfoot," 8 June 2018 After the Liberation, a witness would later recall, a mob came for her, stripping and shearing her, dragging her through town as her teenage daughter cowered behind. Ann Mah, Time, "This Picture Tells a Tragic Story of What Happened to Women After D-Day," 6 June 2018 The lower-middle-class Jews of Weequahic, in Newark, N.J., cower in a second-floor apartment, trying to figure out how to use a gun to defend themselves. Tina Jordan And Susan Ellingwood, New York Times, "A Philip Roth Reader," 23 May 2018 Characters cower behind large objects and peek around corners, hoping not to catch a glimpse of certain death bearing down on them. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "5 things to know about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," 5 June 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

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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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Comments on cower

What made you want to look up cower? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


alleviating pain or harshness

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