Printable Version
Pronunciation: kæw Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: To intimidate, to subdue by show of force, to bring into submission (transitive) or be brought into submission (intransitive).

Notes: Today's verb was derived from the ordinary noun, cow (see how below in Word History). Its participles are used as adjectives and noun, cowed and cowing, expressing its authenticity as a true English word. It is a participant in many compounds, like cowboy, cowman, cowhide, and cowcatcher, the front bumper on old steam engines.

In Play: Here is a word useful around the house: "Barb Dwyer would not be cowed by failure; she kept on with her dream until it was realized." It also works at the office: "When the president heard the quarterly report, he unleased a wrath that would have cowed the devil himself."

Word History: This is another word based on the name of an animal with a characteristic we, sometimes unfairly, ascribe to them, like catty, to dog, and to horse around. The sense of the verb cow came from the fact that cows are easily herded. The noun cow came through English's Germanic relatives from PIE gwou- "bovine, cow, bull", source also of German Kuh, Danish and Swedish ko, and Dutch koe. The PIE word became gaus in Sanskrit, bous in Greek, bos in Latin, in Irish, korova in Russian, krava in Serbian, gov in Armenian, karvé in Lithuanian, govs in Latvian, gaay in Hindi, guéi in Guarni, gāya in Gujarati, and ka "ox" in Albanian. It is a word with some of the highest staying power of all PIE words.

Dr. Goodword,

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