slip a cog

cog

1 [kog, kawg]
noun
1.
(not in technical use) a gear tooth, formerly especially one of hardwood or metal, fitted into a slot in a gearwheel of less durable material.
2.
3.
a person who plays a minor part in a large organization, activity, etc.: He's just a small cog in the financial department.
verb (used without object), cogged, cogging.
4.
(of an electric motor) to move jerkily.
verb (used with object), cogged, cogging.
5.
to roll or hammer (an ingot) into a bloom or slab.
Idioms
6.
slip a cog, to make a blunder; err: One of the clerks must have slipped a cog.

Origin:
1200–50; Middle English cogge, probably < Scandinavian; compare Swedish, Norwegian kugg cog

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
cog1 (kɒɡ)
 
n
1.  any of the teeth or projections on the rim of a gearwheel or sprocket
2.  a gearwheel, esp a small one
3.  a person or thing playing a small part in a large organization or process
 
vb , cogs, cogging, cogged
4.  (tr) metallurgy to roll (cast-steel ingots) to convert them into blooms
 
[C13: of Scandinavian origin; compare Danish kogge, Swedish kugge, Norwegian kug]

cog2 (kɒɡ)
 
vb , cogs, cogging, cogged
slang to cheat (in a game, esp dice), as by loading a dice
 
[C16: originally a dice-playing term, of unknown origin]

cog3 (kɒɡ)
 
n
1.  a tenon that projects from the end of a timber beam for fitting into a mortise
 
vb , cogs, cogging, cogged
2.  (tr) to join (pieces of wood) with cogs
 
[C19: of uncertain origin]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

cog
"tooth on a wheel," mid-13c., probably a borrowing from a Scandinavian language (cf. Norwegian kugg "cog").
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

slip a cog

Also, slip a gear or one's gears. Lose one's ability to reason soundly or make correct judgments, as in She must have slipped a cog or she would never have gone out barefoot in December, or What's the matter with him? Has he slipped his gears? These slangy usages allude to a mechanical failure owing to the cog of a gear or a gear failing to mesh. The first dates from about 1930, the variant from the 1960s.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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