Definition of kowtow
- kowtows to the boss
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP
you can try kowtowing to the boss, but he'll see right through you
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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.
First Known Use: 1804See Words from the same year
: 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
What made you want to look up kowtow? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).
to cause to suffer severely from hunger
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