See also: Cotton

English edit

Cotton plants.
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Etymology 1 edit

Middle English cotoun, from Anglo-Norman cotun, Old French coton, from (Genoese) Old Italian cotone, from Arabic قُطُن (quṭun).

Pronunciation edit

Noun edit

cotton (usually uncountable, plural cottons)

  1. Gossypium, a genus of plant used as a source of cotton fiber.
    • 1976, Chuen-Yan David Lai, “Developments of Cotton Cultivation in Sinkiang”, in Pacific Viewpoint[1], volume 17, number 2, →DOI, archived from the original on 30 June 2020, page 162:
      K'a-shih has the most extensive cotton-growing area which amounted to 950 000 mou (6.3 million ares) in 1965.
  2. Any plant that encases its seed in a thin fiber that is harvested and used as a fabric or cloth.
  3. Any fiber similar in appearance and use to Gossypium fiber.
  4. (textiles) The textile made from the fiber harvested from a cotton plant, especially Gossypium.
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, chapter 2, in The China Governess: A Mystery, London: Chatto & Windus, →OCLC:
      Now that she had rested and had fed from the luncheon tray Mrs. Broome had just removed, she had reverted to her normal gaiety.  She looked cool in a grey tailored cotton dress with a terracotta scarf and shoes and her hair a black silk helmet.
  5. (countable) An item of clothing made from cotton.
    • 1887, Harriet W. Daly, Digging, Squatting, and Pioneering Life in the Northern Territory of South Australia, page 34:
      The little girls appeared, looking fresh and cool in pretty pink cottons, and we two elder ones seized the opportunity of making a more elaborate toilette than usual.
Derived terms edit
Translations edit
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

Adjective edit

cotton (not comparable)

  1. Made of cotton.
Translations edit

Verb edit

cotton (third-person singular simple present cottons, present participle cottoning, simple past and past participle cottoned)

  1. (transitive) To provide with cotton.
    • 1986, W. E. B. Griffin, The Majors, →ISBN, page 52:
      Goddamned fools had cottoned the land, and just worked it to death, destroying the topsoil, so it blew away, and then, when the rains came, gullied it, so that it wasn't worth a damn for anything.
    • 1990, Seymour W. Itzkoff, The Making of the Civilized Mind, page 69:
      Eyes closed, ears cottoned, the mind produces its own interior messages.
    1. To supply with a cotton wick.
      • 1838, William Newton, The London Journal of Arts and Sciences, and Repertory of Patent Inventions, page 8:
        Supposing a frame, or set of moulds, as represented at B, to have wicks carried through each mould, or regularly cottoned, and each wick to be held accurately in the centre of the mould by means of the series of nippers shown at fig. 8, the moulds are first taken to the position shown at B 1, figs. 2, 3, and 4, where they are supported in a perpendicular position on the small straight edges or railway d, d, as seen at fig. 3.
      • 1852, George Fergusson Wilson, On the stearic candle manufacture, page 24:
        Each machine has on average 200 moulds, each mould contains 18 bobbins, and each bobbin, when first cottoned, 60 yards of wick, so that supposing all the frames of our seven machines to be fresh cottoned at the same time, we should have above 800 miles of wick in work.
      • 1880, Edward Spon, Francis N. Spon, George Guillaume André, Spons' Encyclopædia of the Industrial Arts, Manufactures, and Commercial products:
        The method of using the machine is as follows: — After having made the connection between the hot and cold water pipes and the machine at K, and having connected the outlet pipe with a drain, the machine is ready for cottoning.
    2. To fill with a wad of cotton.
      • 1953, Manufacturing Series - Issues 211-224, page 33:
        First comes bottling, which is done both by machine and by hand. This is followed by cottoning and capping.
      • 1962, Time and Motion Study - Volume 11, page 16:
        Although cottoning is performed by hand, the hand-capping operation is assisted by a mechanical friction wheel, driven through a flexible cable.
      • 1975, Food Engineering - Volume 47, page 94:
        Features of the CM/CCI (Continuous Motion, Close-Coupled Integrated) packaging line segment include control of containers from the bottle feeder through the filling/ cottoning operations and space savings in packaging line lengths.
    3. (horticulture) To wrap with a protective layer of cotton fabric.
      • 1937, Chambers's Journal, page 399:
        When a tree is to be cottoned the ends from the cops are brought together and tied in a rough knot, which is hitched to a twig. Then, with the tube held upright, the operator walks round the tree as many times as may be necessary to cover it with lines of cotton, raising the metal tube about three feet after each round.
      • 1953 June 25, F. Howard Lancum, “More Nights at a Badgers' Sett”, in Country Life, volume 113, page 2064:
        I went round and quietly cottoned all the nine holes, and next moring I found all the cottons intact.
      • 1965, Amateur Gardening - Volume 82, page 199:
        I planted out over 600 polyanthus plants, and almost without exception the sparrows had the new buds off — after I had both cottoned and sprayed with Jeyes. They also destroyed two rows of brussels sprouts seedlings — again after cottoning and spraying.
      • 1976, Horticulture Industry, page 142:
        The National Fruit Trials at Brogdale will this year be working in conjunction with Worplesden on cottoning cherry orchards as a method of reducing losses, although it can never entirely prevent damage.
    4. To cover walls with fabric.
      • 1900, Sessional Papers (British Columbia), page 389:
        The rooms downstairs were cottoned, the doors re-hung, and a counter put in the record office.
      • 1906, Sessional Papers - Volume 40, Issue 1, Part 2, page R-51:
        Robinson, W., Whitehorse: cottoning and papering 10 rooms, hall and staircase, at sergeant's mess, $206;
      • 1912, National Painters Magazine - Volume 39, page 657:
        Mr. Taylor said he reckoned the cost of cottoning at twelve and one-half cents per yard.
    5. (tar and cotton) To cover with cotton bolls over a layer of tar (analogous to tar and feather )
      • 1864, Honor: Or The Slave-dealer's Daughter, page 151:
        Tar and cotton him," said a student from the college, more facetiously, perhaps, more mercifully inclined. " Think, fellows, what a pretty bird he will be, with cotton for feathers ; — so downy."
      • 1874, Belgravia - Volume 22, page 311:
        The Southerners caught him ; and, as a natural consequence of his capture, he was, after a little preliminary cowhiding and railriding, tarred and cottoned; the soft and downy substance growing in the pod of the cotton plant being in the sunny South the substitute for 'the penal plumes' —as Sydney Smith in humorous euphuism called the feathers wwibh, in combination with a coating of pitch, made up the ignominious livery of an offender whom the Americans delight to dishonour.
      • 1880, George Augustus Sala, Paris Herself Again in 1878-9 - Volume 1, page 248:
        Tarring and feathering in the Northern States of America, or tarring and cottoning in the South (the last a freak frequently played with Abolitionists prior to the Great Civil War), could have been as nothing, looked upon as a frolic, compared with the racy humours of the Golden House.
  2. To make or become cotton-like
    1. To raise a nap, providing with a soft, cottony texture.
      • 1959, Historical Journal - Volume 7, page 42:
        The finishing operations consisted of shearing the nap from the cloth, and frizzing, or cottoning, the surface, by pressing with hot irons.
      • 1968, Thomas Birch, The History of the Royal Society of London for Improving of Natural Knowledge from Its First Rise:
        When the cloth is thus shorn on one side, it is for the most part cottoned on the other side, which they call the wrong side ; but frizes are cottoned on the " right side", for cottoning makes them such.
      • 1953, Thomas Corwin Mendenhall, The Shrewsbury drapers and the Welsh wool trade in the XVI and XVII centuries:
        The final finishing processes—cottoning and rowing, or raising the nap with teasels and shearing it smooth again—were performed after the Drapers had carried the cloth to Shrewsbury.
      • 1985, Eric Kerridge, Textile Manufactures in Early Modern England, →ISBN, page 19:
        Webs made from them had to be frizzed or cottoned.
      • 2015, Catherine Hall, Nicholas Draper, Keith McClelland, Emancipation and the Remaking of the British Imperial World, →ISBN:
        The 'cotton' was, in fact, a woollen fabric, one whose nap had been teased upwards or 'cottoned'.
    2. To develop a porous, cottony texture.
      • 1854, The Churchman's Monthly Magazine - Volume 1, page 148:
        At this moment he saw the plate cottoning, as he expressed it, to his young friend, Charles Freeland, who sat in the pew at his right. He watched to see what the young merchant would give ; and to his amazement, he saw the young man put in a fifty dollar note!
      • 1971, Modern Packaging Encyclopedia, page 112:
        Used at medium to thin consistency to avoid stringing or cottoning and to assure proper spreading characteristics.
      • 2001, Quality Assurance in Marketing of Fresh Horticultural Produce:
        However, this variety exhibited cottoning (breaking down of the central portion of the root) starting on the 14th up to the 20th day of storage.
    3. To give the appearance of being dotted with cotton balls.
      • 1970, Western Writers of America, Spurs West, page 111:
        A fair piece ahead, in answering signal cottoned the sky in rhythmic puffs.
      • 1998, George P. Morrill, The Blake Streak: A Tale of War, Mutiny and Love, →ISBN, page 137:
        Choppy waves cottoned the bay.
      • 2000, Elizabeth Stead, The Fishcastle, page 124:
        And he quickly changed the subject as the first of the afternoon clouds cottoned the sky and laid shadows across Marlin Hardwick's rustling, winding, scuttling and bird-calling yard.
    4. To enshroud with a layer of whiteness.
      • 1937, Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association, The Improvement Era - Volume 40, page 186:
        Fog cottoned the steep, wooded slopes on each side of the lake, and the air was chill and penetrating.
      • 1956, Edwin Gilbert, Native Stone, page 316:
        There was no evidence by Thursday of the snowfall that had thickly cottoned the Taunton area; the town and state plows had scraped the roads clean, and the only sight of snow remaining lay in the drifts and patches on the sheltered, wooded slopes northward.
      • 2009, Brian Ray, Through the Pale Door: A Novel, page 42:
        Fog cottoned the roads under a sky like rusted tin.
      • 2010, Ali Shaw, The Girl with Glass Feet, →ISBN:
        A mist cottoned the hills inland.
      • 2018, Sara Saint James, Trust the Night:
        She got out and began to wade through the blanket of powder which cottoned the ground.
  3. To protect from harsh stimuli, coddle, or muffle.
    • 1971, Under the Sign of Pisces - Volumes 2-4, page 9:
      Jeanne's house, like Usher's, is a void of great silence and immobility and the "somnambulistic gardens" surrounding her house like Usher's tarn "cottoned the sound from the world."
    • 1976, John Tytell, Harold Jaffe, Affinities: A Short Story Anthology, →ISBN:
      The violins were muted, the hands were gloved, carpets were unrolled forever under the feet, and the gardens cottoned the sound from the world.
    • 1978, Robert D. Hare, Daisy Schalling, Psychopathic Behaviour: Approaches to Research, page 324:
      In the case of the whippingboys, however, the closeness of the relationship was often given a somewhat negative interpretation by the teachers — the parents were over-anxious, 'cottoned' the boy, were overprotective.
    • 1982, Daedalus, page 138:
      Indeed, pragmatism and technicism cottoned the American soul from some of the worst pains of an unmysterious world, although they would later be poor guardians against its encroachment.
  4. To rub or burnish with cotton.
    • 1912, Ambrose Bierce, The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce, page 267:
      To oppress one's own workmen, and provide for the workmen of a neighbor — to skin those in charge of one's own interests while cottoning and oiling the residuary product of another's skinnery — that is not very good benevolence, nor very good sense, but it serves in place of both.
    • 1934, The Penrose Annual: Review of the Graphic Arts:
      It was inclined to be scummy in developing, and the consequent vigorous 'cottoning' or rubbing with a swab of absorbent cotton while in the developing sink, which was necessary to open it up, often caused injury to the image.
    • 1969, Book Production Industry - Volume 6; Volume 45, page 78:
      The solution has been to unplug the dots — open up the shadow areas — by re-etching, cottoning, and other handwork.

Etymology 2 edit

1560s, either from Welsh cydun, cytun (agree, coincide) (cyduno, cytuno), from cyd, cyt + un (one), literally “to be at one with”, or by metaphor with the textile, as cotton blended well with other textiles, notably wool in hat-making.

Verb edit

cotton (third-person singular simple present cottons, present participle cottoning, simple past and past participle cottoned)

  1. (Should we move, merge or split(+) this sense?) To get on with someone or something; to have a good relationship with someone.
    • 1873, Percy Hetherington Fitzgerald, “Notes of Gold?”, in All the Year Round[2], page 286:
      I want to tell you the Dukes, both mother and son, are cottoning to her fast enough
    • 2009 March 21, Farhad Manjoo, “A Conference That Starts on Time and Stays on Schedule”, in The New York Times[3]:
      The conference — Mr. Allen’s first gathering, and, depending on the economic outlook, maybe his last — brought together entrepreneurs, techies, writers and even some middle managers who’ve cottoned on to his ideas.
Usage notes edit

Generally used with prepositions on, to; see cotton on, cotton to.

Derived terms edit
Translations edit

References edit

Middle English edit

Noun edit


  1. (Late Middle English) Alternative form of coton

Portuguese edit

Etymology edit

Unadapted borrowing from English cotton.

Noun edit

cotton m (plural cottons)

  1. cotton blend (a blend of cotton with other fibers)

Related terms edit