1 : to take a liking — used with to
2 : to come to understand — used with to or on to
Did You Know?
The noun cotton first appears in English in the late Middle Ages. It comes, via Anglo-French and Old Italian, from the Arabic word for cotton, quṭun or quṭn. In the 15th century, cotton acquired a verb use meaning "to form a nap on (cloth)." Though this verb sense is now obsolete, our modern-day use might have spun from it. In 1822, English philologist Robert Nares reported that cotton had been used to mean "to succeed" and speculated that this use came from "the finishing of cloth, which when it cottons, or rises to a regular nap, is nearly or quite complete." The meaning of cotton shifted from "to get on well" to "to get on well together," and eventually to the sense we know today, "to take a liking to." The "understand" sense appeared later, in the early 20th century.
"He was so much fun to have in the company. He had that warm, inviting voice. Audiences just cottoned to him." — Gary Gisselman, quoted in The Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 3 Mar. 2016
"This exhibition—like many of [Jim] Henson's shows—is mainly for adults, concerned with the craft of puppetry and the expansion of broadcast media…. Henson, born in Greenville, Miss., in 1936, had an early gift for landscape drawing, but he cottoned on quickly to the potentials of a new medium—and to the branding opportunities that the medium would allow." — Jason Farago, The New York Times, 21 July 2017
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
What 6-letter verb beginning with "t" is a synonym of cotton, meaning "to come to understand," and also means "to fall suddenly and helplessly"?VIEW THE ANSWER
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP