(plural cows or cattle) (see usage notes)
- A female domesticated ox or other bovine, especially an adult after she has had a calf.
- More generally, any domestic bovine regardless of sex or age.
- The meat of such animals as food (more commonly called beef).
- The female of larger species of mammal, including bovines, moose, whales, seals, hippos, rhinos, manatees, and elephants.
- (derogatory, informal) A woman who is considered despicable in some way, especially one considered to be fat, lazy, ugly, argumentative, mean or spiteful.
- (informal) Anything that is annoyingly difficult, awkward or graceless.
- That website is a real cow to navigate.
- (informal) A conniption fit or hissy fit; a state of agitation (only in the phrase have a cow).
- (mining) A wedge or brake to stop a machine or car; a chock.
The plural cows is the normal plural for multiple individuals, while cattle is used in a more collective sense. The umlaut plurals ky, kye and kine are archaic and no longer in common use.
From Middle English cou, cu, from Old English cū (“cow”), from Proto-Germanic *kūz (“cow”), from Proto-Indo-European *gʷṓws (“cow”). Cognate with Scots coo (“cow”), North Frisian ko, kø (“cow”), Eastern Frisian ku (“cow”), West Frisian ko (“cow”), Dutch koe (“cow”), Low German Koh, Koo, Kau (“cow”), German Kuh (“cow”), Swedish ko (“cow”), Norwegian ku (“cow”), Icelandic kýr (“cow”), Latin bōs (“ox, bull, cow”), Armenian կով (kov).
(third-person singular simple present cows, present participle cowing, simple past and past participle cowed)
- To intimidate; to daunt the spirits or courage of. Found primarily in the passive voice.
- Con artists are not cowed by the law.
Probably from Old Norse kúga (“to oppress”) (whence also Danish and Norwegian kue, Swedish kuva); compare Icelandic kúfa (“to set on top”).
- (UK, dialect) A chimney cowl.
- (computing) Acronym of copy-on-write.