From Middle English couren, curen, from Middle Low German kûren (“to lie in wait; linger”) or from Scandinavian (Icelandic kúra (“to doze”)). Cognate with German kauern (“to squat”), Dutch koeren (“to keep watch (in a cowered position)”), Serbo-Croatian kutriti (“to lie in a bent position”). Unrelated to coward, which is of Latin origin.
- (intransitive) To crouch or cringe, or to avoid or shy away from something, in fear.
- He'd be useless in war. He'd just cower in his bunker until the enemy came in and shot him, or until the war was over.
- (intransitive, archaic) To crouch in general.
- (transitive) To cause to cower; to frighten into submission.
- 1895, Annual Report of the Bureau of Labor and Industry of Kansas:
- This done, their doubts will vanish, and they will stand confronted by an object lesson which must have the effect either to arouse them to a determination to banish despotism from the land, or cower them into submission and servitude.
- 2007, DJ Birmingham, The Queen's Tale: The Struggle for the Survival of Ireland, page 170:
- My spirit will cower them and make them wish they had never risen up against me.
- 2010, Marilyn Brown Oden, The Dead Saint:
- A vicious Mafia threat intended to cower him—but the chief doesn't cower.