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[kos-ak, -uh k] /ˈkɒs æk, -ək/
(especially in czarist Russia) a person belonging to any of certain groups of Slavs living chiefly in the southern part of Russia in Europe and forming an elite corps of horsemen.
Origin of Cossack
1590-1600; < Polish kozak or Ukrainian kozák, ultimately < a Turkic word taken to mean “adventurer, freebooter,” adopted as an ethnic name by Turkic tribal groups of the Eurasian steppes Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for cossacks
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The greater part of the civilians, fearing severe punishment, fled with the cossacks.

  • The cossacks of America had forced her to this pass, and she was an old woman; what could she do?

    Hex Laurence Mark Janifer (AKA Larry M. Harris)
  • For charges in open order there are no better models for imitation than the Turks and the cossacks.

    The Art of War Baron Henri de Jomini
  • The officers got up and stood round the cossacks and their prisoner.

    War and Peace Leo Tolstoy
  • The tribute that the riotous cossacks collected, whether from Siberia or America, was tribute in furs.

    Vikings of the Pacific Agnes C. Laut
British Dictionary definitions for cossacks


(formerly) any of the free warrior-peasants of chiefly East Slavonic descent who lived in communes, esp in Ukraine, and served as cavalry under the tsars
of, relating to, or characteristic of the Cossacks: a Cossack dance
Word Origin
C16: from Russian kazak vagabond, of Turkic origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for cossacks



1590s, from Russian kozak, from Turkish kazak "adventurer, guerilla, nomad," from qaz "to wander." The same Turkic root is the source of the people-name Kazakh and the nation of Kazakhstan.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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cossacks in Culture
Cossacks [(kos-aks)]

A people in southern Russia who became aggressive warriors during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In place of taxes, they supplied the Russian Empire with scouts and mounted soldiers. The Cossacks are also famed for their dances, which feature fast-paced music and seemingly impossible leaps.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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