kowtow

verb
kow·​tow | \ ˈkau̇-ˌtau̇ How to pronounce kowtow (audio) , (ˌ)kau̇-ˈtau̇ \
kowtowed; kowtowing; kowtows

Definition of kowtow

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to show obsequious deference : fawn kowtows to the boss
2 : to kneel and touch the forehead to the ground in token of homage, worship, or deep respect

kowtow

noun

Definition of kowtow (Entry 2 of 2)

: an act of kowtowing

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Did You Know?

Noun

Kowtow originated as a noun referring to the act of kneeling and touching one's head to the ground as a salute or act of worship to a revered authority. In traditional China this ritual was performed by commoners making requests to the local magistrate, by the emperor to the shrine of Confucius, or by foreign representatives appearing before the emperor to establish trade relations. (In the late 18th century, some Western nations resisted performing the ritual, which acknowledged the Chinese emperor as the "son of heaven.") The word kowtow derives from Chinese "koutou," formed by combining the verb "kou" ("to knock") with the noun "tou" ("head"). The noun had arrived in English by 1804, and the earliest evidence for the verb dates from 1826.

Examples of kowtow in a Sentence

Verb you can try kowtowing to the boss, but he'll see right through you
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb This is the team pushing Biden not to kowtow to fearmongering about deficits and inflation. Bryce Covert, The New Republic, "The Progressive Trio Shaping Biden’s Ambitious Economic Policy," 4 May 2021 The Trump administration imposed sanctions too, but the president himself was also criticized for appearing to kowtow to his Kremlin counterpart. NBC News, "From Iran to North Korea, Biden has a world of challenges to confront after first 100 days," 1 May 2021 That needs to be fixed, and fast: officials can’t kowtow to players who yell at them, while giving bad calls to players who play respectfully. Andy Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Andy Larsen: Is there something to the Utah Jazz’s complaints about small market officiating?," 7 Mar. 2021 That needs to be fixed, and fast: officials can’t kowtow to players who yell at them, while giving bad calls to players who play respectfully. Andy Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Andy Larsen: Is there something to the Utah Jazz’s complaints about small market officiating?," 7 Mar. 2021 The regime was broadcasting its displeasure that the new administration will evidently not kowtow to its demands. Lindsey Neas, National Review, "Grading the Biden Administration’s Approach on China So Far," 11 Apr. 2021 That needs to be fixed, and fast: officials can’t kowtow to players who yell at them, while giving bad calls to players who play respectfully. Andy Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Andy Larsen: Is there something to the Utah Jazz’s complaints about small market officiating?," 7 Mar. 2021 That needs to be fixed, and fast: officials can’t kowtow to players who yell at them, while giving bad calls to players who play respectfully. Andy Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Andy Larsen: Is there something to the Utah Jazz’s complaints about small market officiating?," 7 Mar. 2021 That needs to be fixed, and fast: officials can’t kowtow to players who yell at them, while giving bad calls to players who play respectfully. Andy Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Andy Larsen: Is there something to the Utah Jazz’s complaints about small market officiating?," 7 Mar. 2021

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

Verb

1826, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

1804, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for kowtow

Noun and Verb

Chinese (Beijing) kòutóu, from kòu to knock + tóu head

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Last Updated

9 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Kowtow.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/kowtow. Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for kowtow

kowtow

verb

English Language Learners Definition of kowtow

informal + disapproving : to agree too easily or eagerly to do what someone else wants you to do : to obey someone with power in a way that seems weak

kowtow

verb
kow·​tow | \ kau̇-ˈtau̇, ˈkau̇-ˌtau̇ \
kowtowed; kowtowing

Kids Definition of kowtow

: to obey a person in a position of power in a way that seems weak : show overly respectful attention "… don't expect me to kowtow to you, mortal, just because old Barnacle-Beard is your father."— Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief

More from Merriam-Webster on kowtow

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Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about kowtow

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