"You canker blossom!" 3 Shakespearean Insults


[kou-tou, -tou, koh-] /ˈkaʊˈtaʊ, -ˌtaʊ, ˈkoʊ-/
verb (used without object)
to act in an obsequious manner; show servile deference.
to touch the forehead to the ground while kneeling, as an act of worship, reverence, apology, etc., especially in former Chinese custom.
the act of kowtowing.
Also, kotow.
Origin of kowtow
1795-1805; < Chinese kòutóu literally, knock (one's) head
Related forms
kowtower, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for kowtow
  • Unlike the others, he was apparently unable to kowtow sufficiently and show the respect demanded by them.
  • Humanities scholars should not ignore science or reject it in kneejerk fashion, but neither should they kowtow to it.
  • Some even went on strike, calling the requirements a kowtow to tourists and a burden on drivers.
  • The kowtow was often performed in diplomatic relations as well.
British Dictionary definitions for kowtow


verb (intransitive)
to touch the forehead to the ground as a sign of deference: a former Chinese custom
(often foll by to) to be servile or obsequious (towards)
the act of kowtowing
Derived Forms
kowtower, noun
Word Origin
C19: from Chinese k'o t'ou, from k'o to strike, knock + t'ou head
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 kowtow

also kow-tow, 1804, from Chinese k'o-t'ou custom of touching the ground with the forehead to show respect or submission, literally "knock the head," from k'o "knock, bump" + t'ou "head." The verb in the figurative sense of "act in an obsequious manner" is from 1826. Related: Kowtowed; kowtowing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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