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See also: Cotton
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 Egyptian Arabic قُطُن, Andalusian Arabic قُطُون (quṭūn), variants of Arabic قُطْن (quṭn), قُطُن (quṭun).

At the Arabic the track is lost. For the Arabic to derive from the Arabic root ق ط ن (q-ṭ-n) there is no visible semantic link. There have been suggestions of corruptions of other words, as كَتّان (kattān, flax) and جَفْنَة (jafna, vine), but there the semantic link is of low sufferability – and there are no solidifying factual indications proferred.

Cognate to Dutch katoen, German Kattun, Italian cotone, Spanish algodón, and Portuguese algodão.



cotton (usually uncountable, plural cottons)

  1. A plant that encases its seed in a thin fiber that is harvested and used as a fabric or cloth.
  2. Gossypium, a genus of plant used as a source of cotton fiber.
  3. (textiles) The textile made from the fiber harvested from the cotton plant.
  4. (countable) An item of clothing made from cotton.
Derived terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


cotton (not comparable)

  1. Made of cotton.
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, chapter 2, in The China Governess[1]:
      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.


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.


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

  1. To get on with someone or something; to have a good relationship with someone.
    • 1873, All the Year Round[5], 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[6]:
      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]


  • cotton” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2018.
  • Take Our Word For It: Issue 178, page 2
  • Palmer, Abram Smythe (1882) Folk-etymology: a dictionary of verbal corruptions or words perverted in form or meaning, by false derivation or mistaken analogy, G. Bell and Sons, page 76