Definition of cover in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkʌvə/


1Put something on top of or in front of (something) in order to protect or conceal it: the table had been covered with a checked tablecloth her husband had covered up his bald patch
More example sentences
  • The front windows were covered with a series of green shutters to keep the afternoon sun from pouring into them.
  • The rest of his crop is covered with conventional white canopy to protect it from the fierce westerlies common in the area.
  • The front of the enclosure is covered with a panel that is as thick as the rest of the casing.
put something on top of, place something over, place under cover;
protect, shield, shelter;
envelop, enfold, engulf, enclose, tuck, cup, surround, house, sink, embed, bury, submerge, immerse
1.1Envelop in a layer of something, especially dirt: he was covered in mud figurative she was covered in confusion
More example sentences
  • A thick layer of dirt covered him, probably from having been dragged along the filthy floors of the prison.
  • Both were covered completely in dirt, mud, and more of that reddish stuff.
  • From head to toe, he and his blue and white militia's uniform were covered in dirt.
cake, coat, encrust, plaster, spread thickly, smother, daub, smear, bedaub, overspread
literary besmear
blanket, overlay, overspread, carpet, overlie, extend over, layer, coat, film, submerge
literary mantle, pave
1.2Scatter a layer of loose material over (a floor or other surface), leaving it obscured: the barn floor was covered in straw
More example sentences
  • Layers of dust covered its surface as if no one had dared look at their reflection in it in a very long time.
  • The garbage was covering the entire kitchen floor.
  • This was not the first time the floor of a gallery space had been covered with loose natural material.
1.3Lie over or adhere to (a surface), as decoration or to conceal something: masonry paint will cover hairline cracks
More example sentences
  • The original yellow paint covers the lower forty-nine inches of the left side.
  • It was painted a horrible cream colour completely covering the beautiful old brickwork.
  • And, finally, do the trim so that any paint that accidentally gets on the trim can be covered.
2Extend over (an area): the grounds covered eight acres
More example sentences
  • The Dinaric Alps that cover this area also extend southward into Serbia and Montenegro.
  • Our geographic district has been extended so that we cover an area at least double the previous size.
  • If it could be assembled on the ground it would cover an area as large as two football fields.
2.1Travel (a specified distance): it took them four days to cover 150 miles
More example sentences
  • Communication and travel was slow, ships and messages took years to travel the distances covered.
  • If you do five rides a week for 100 miles, try covering the same distance in just three rides one week.
  • DO YOU know that the train that covers the longest distance passes through Ernakulam on Thursdays and Fridays?
travel, journey, go, do, put behind one, get under one's belt, travel over, pass over, journey over/across, traverse, cross, go across, make one's way across, range/tramp over
3Deal with (a subject) by describing or analysing its most important aspects or events: a sequence of novels that will cover the period from 1968 to the present
More example sentences
  • Several special issues covering important subjects were published during that period.
  • In summary, this book covers a very important subject.
  • Other courses cover issues that are important for all aspects of humanitarian work.
3.1Investigate, report on, or show pictures of (an event): Channel 4 are covering the match
More example sentences
  • Reporters covering traumatic events can take some steps of their own.
  • Reporters, however, cover meetings only when there is the promise of something newsworthy.
  • The timing will also offer opportunities to meet with BBC reporters in the area covering the elections.
report, write up, write about, describe, commentate on, tell of, write/give an account of, publish/broadcast details of, investigate, look into, enquire into
3.2Have responsibility for or provide services to (a particular area): development officers whose work would cover a large area
More example sentences
  • Moreover, the chapter covers all service areas not specifically excluded - a very wide brush indeed.
  • Wind farms, distributed across good locations to cover a service area, can be up and running in a year.
  • Enhanced services will cover areas such as minor surgery or improving access to patients.
include, involve, take in, deal with, contain, comprise, provide for, embrace, embody, incorporate, subsume, refer to, consider
3.3(Of a rule or law) apply to (a person or situation): the offence covers a wide spectrum of culpability
More example sentences
  • The law covers anybody who misbehaves criminally.
  • It sounds rather tied to this particular case, rather than every case covered by the rule.
  • The rules cover employees on contracts for a fixed term or task.
4(Of a sum of money) be enough to pay (a cost): there are grants to cover the cost of materials for loft insulation
More example sentences
  • This way they earn enough money to cover most of the cost of both steers.
  • When wages barely cover living costs, the working classes cannot fund the whims and fancies of politicians forever.
  • Hopefully, with two and a half days work last week I made enough money to cover my costs.
offset, counterbalance, balance, cancel out, make up for, pay back, pay, pay for, be enough for, fund, finance, make up, have enough money for, provide for
4.1(Of insurance) protect against a liability, loss, or accident involving financial consequences: your contents are now covered against accidental loss or damage in transit
More example sentences
  • We are still the only industrial nation whose citizens are not all covered by health insurance.
  • One complication here is that you may be covered by insurance for some situations.
  • Taxpayers who itemize can deduct disaster losses not covered by insurance or federal aid.
insure, protect, secure, underwrite, provide insurance for, assure, indemnify
4.2 (cover oneself) Take precautionary measures so as to protect oneself against future blame or liability: one reason doctors take temperatures is to cover themselves against negligence claims
More example sentences
  • Many Irish firms have put money aside to cover themselves against any future claims.
  • In addition to covering yourself and your firm from liability, training classes create another revenue source.
  • He covers himself against the charge of plagiarism by making sure he acknowledges the sources of his quotes.
5Disguise the sound or fact of (something) with another sound or action: Louise laughed to cover her embarrassment
More example sentences
  • It was almost as if he was putting on a mask or disguise to cover his sorrow.
  • The words were covered by the heavy sounds of cheers and the banging of the bass drum.
  • I knew that the sounds of the waters and the night noises would cover my quiet words.
mask, disguise, obscure, hide, stop something being overheard, muffle, stifle, smother;
camouflage, blot out, cloak, veil, shroud, swathe, secrete, envelop
literary enshroud
5.1 [no object] (cover for) Disguise the illicit absence or wrongdoing of (someone) in order to spare them punishment: if the sergeant wants to know where you are, I’ll cover for you
More example sentences
  • An appropriate punishment for having covered for the president would have been four more years of cleaning up after him.
  • Like today, I almost got punished for covering for Matt.
  • And what charges will you make against a president who so obviously covered for his consigliere all this time?
give an alibi to, provide with an alibi, shield, protect
informal alibi
5.2 [no object] (cover for) Temporarily take over the job of (a colleague) in their absence: during August ministers cover for other ministers
More example sentences
  • All lessons are being covered either by supply teachers or staff covering for colleagues.
  • He was covering for a colleague when the attack happened.
  • Over the next two years it will limit teachers to spending only 38 hours a year covering for absent colleagues.
stand in for, fill in for, act as stand-in for, deputize for, act as deputy for, substitute for, act as substitute for, take over from, double for, be a substitute for;
replace, relieve, take the place of, act in place of, do duty for, do a locum for, be a locum for, sit in for, understudy;
hold the fort, step into the breach
informal sub for, fill someone's shoes/boots
North American informal pinch-hit for
6Aim a gun at (someone) in order to prevent them from moving or escaping: she raised her gun to cover Klift
More example sentences
  • He could only watch with an impressed look and cover her with his gun.
  • John moved for his gun, but Silas was already covering him.
  • Jim took two quick steps backwards, trying to cover Diana with the gun and keep from losing sight of Harry.
6.1Protect (an exposed person) by shooting at an enemy: (as adjective covering) we retreated behind spurts of covering fire
More example sentences
  • Due to the enemy's covering, seizing the hospital put us further from the enemy than at any other point around the garrison.
  • I went where she fell down and covered her, firing my rifle at the enemy.
  • One of the soldiers rushed forward and began frisking the older man while his comrades covered him.
6.2(Of a fortress, gun, or cannon) have (an area) within range.
Example sentences
  • It deploys submunition shrapnel at defined intervals, covering a wide lethal area against soft targets.
  • In real life, you use a 360 [degrees] zone of fire and learn to be conscious of what your pistol is covering.
  • Dated 13 May, it shows unexploded munitions covering large populated areas of Iraq.
6.3chiefly Cricket Stand behind (another player) to stop any missed balls.
Example sentences
  • Ironically, Dailly had been trying to shepherd the ball clear as he covered behind Elliott.
  • Henderson took the sting off his close-range effort and Bower was covering behind him to clear off the line.
6.4(In team games) take up a position ready to defend against (an opposing player).
Example sentences
  • In case of a mismatch where a smaller defender must cover a taller player, a teammate should collapse to help.
  • If this happens, you need to look for the player your team mate was covering, and now you cover that player.
  • If the back defenders are covering the middle player, either or both of your sideline girls are open.
6.5 Baseball Be in position at (a base) ready to catch the ball: he moved to cover second base
More example sentences
  • The batter hits a ground ball to shortstop, who tosses the ball to the second baseman covering the bag for a force out.
  • We had first, second and third bases covered, plus a pitcher and a catcher.
  • The judge seems to have covered all of his bases in this decision, making it difficult to overturn.
7Record or perform a new version of (a song) originally performed by someone else: other artists who have covered the song include U2
More example sentences
  • He's also been listening to the Bunnymen, even covering one of their songs in live sets.
  • It's tempting to think of this song as Marc Jordan covering a Rod Stewart song, but this, in fact, is the original.
  • There have also been some big bands that have covered Last Resort songs.
8(Of a male animal, especially a stallion) copulate with (a female animal): a working stallion who has covered forty mares this season
More example sentences
  • Fortunately, we found this out before the stallion commenced covering mares from September 1 and saved many breeders from disappointment.
  • When a small breeder wishes to have his mare covered by a top stallion, he will pay top dollar for the privilege.
  • Molony wants stallion owners to reduce the number of mares each sire covers and to be more selective.
9 Bridge Play a higher card on (a high card) in a trick: the ploy will fail if the ten is covered [no object]: East covered with his queen
More example sentences
  • A card fits if it is next in rank above the card it covers (irrespective of suit).
  • The first card in each centre stack must be an ace, then 2, 3, and so on in sequence up to queen, each card played being one higher than the card it covers.
  • The threes are themselves eligible cards, so one of them covers the other, resulting in a score of 53.


1A thing which lies on, over, or around something, especially in order to protect or conceal it: a seat cover a duvet cover
More example sentences
  • With either system, deep rubber floormats and coated vinyl seat covers are included to protect the interior from muddy riders.
  • The unit is fantastic for shirts, duvet covers and bedspreads and uses only 2.4 feet of space.
  • ‘If we put covers on before it's totally thawed out, the covers basically protect the frost,’ he said.
sleeve, wrapping, wrapper, covering, envelope, sheath, sheathing, housing, jacket, casing, cowling;
awning, tarpaulin;
lid, top, cap
coating, coat, covering, layer, carpet, blanket, overlay, topping, dusting, cloak, mantle, canopy, film, sheet, veneer, crust, surface, skim, skin, thickness, deposit, veil, pall, shroud
1.1A thin solid object that seals a container or hole; a lid: a manhole cover
More example sentences
  • Manhole covers have been sealed, sight-lines checked and staff vetted.
  • Light shone through the holes in the manhole covers.
  • Attempts from the council to board them up and drill holes in the covers to let water flow through have failed.
1.2A thick protective outer part or page of a book or magazine: the year that Crime and Punishment appeared in hard covers
More example sentences
  • Her commercial work includes newspaper and magazine features and book covers.
  • The young man made his way as illustrator for book covers and magazines.
  • Almost all of his work from then on was for magazine covers and book illustrations.
binding, case;
jacket, dust jacket, dust cover, wrapper
1.3 (the covers) Bedclothes: she burrowed down beneath the covers
More example sentences
  • As I slipped beneath the covers, I continued to think about what I should do with Landon.
  • In my bed, safe beneath the covers and surrounded by pillows, I watched the moon like usual.
  • The bed was not made, and there was dirt all inside the covers and sheets of the bed.
bedclothes, bedding, sheets, blankets, linen;
duvet, quilt, eiderdown;
bedspread, counterpane
2 [mass noun] Shelter or protection sought by people in danger: the sirens wailed and we ran for cover
More example sentences
  • If you hear the sound of a gunshot, I want you to get down or seek cover.
  • We darted form place to place, seeking what little cover we could find.
  • Accelerating fully, he pulled up the plane's nose and raced up into the clouds to seek some cover.
shelter, protection, refuge, hiding, concealment, housing, sanctuary;
shield, defence, haven, hiding place
2.1Undergrowth or trees used as a shelter by animals: the standing crops of game cover See also covert (sense 1 of the noun).
More example sentences
  • Banded kokopu and koaro like fast flowing streams that have rocks and tree cover.
  • She dove under and looked at the muddy bottom, stirring it up and watching the little shelled animals run for cover.
  • The animals scuttle for cover when they detect a change in oxygen levels.
undergrowth, vegetation, shrubbery, greenery, ground cover, underwood, copsewood, brushwood, brush, scrub, underscrub;
woodland, forest, jungle;
bushes, plants;
covert, thicket, copse, coppice;
North American  underbrush, underbush, shin-tangle
British dialect frith
archaic rone
rare herbage, verdure
2.2Military support given when someone is being attacked: they agreed to provide additional naval cover
More example sentences
  • As daylight broke, fighter planes from the RAF gave cover against a possible attack by the Luftwaffe.
  • A behemoth called Dead Reckoning, a 70 ft long armoured truck provides cover and support for the looters.
  • It was unclear whether he was suggesting that officials incited the mob or whether pilgrims gave cover to attackers.
2.3An activity or organization used as a means of concealing an illegal or secret activity: the restaurant was run as a cover for a money-laundering operation
More example sentences
  • At that time, the intelligence services used cover organizations to ask him to write about China.
  • He also helped cover of scams and spy on the respective people of Versanalus.
  • It is difficult to see how such cover can work at all if a fronting company alone is the reinsured.
front, facade, smokescreen, screen, blind, deception, camouflage, disguise, mask, cloak, pretext, masquerade, feint
2.4 [in singular] An identity adopted by a spy to conceal their true activities: he was worried that their cover was blown
More example sentences
  • It is an interactive exhibition encouraging visitors to pretend they are a spy and choose a cover identity.
  • The criminal is the guy who comes up short, who gets caught, who fails to adopt a respectable cover.
  • The group claimed the four were spies using the cover of Christian peace activists.
3 [mass noun] British Protection by insurance against a liability, loss, or accident: your policy provides cover against damage by subsidence
More example sentences
  • We would require some indemnity from them to cover us from liability.
  • But did you know that if you are planning to rent out your property, you need extra insurance cover?
  • Many reception venues will insist that couples have adequate insurance cover before they will hire out their rooms.
insurance, protection, security, assurance, indemnification, indemnity, compensation
4 (also cover version) A recording or performance of a song previously recorded by a different artist: the band played covers of Beatles songs
More example sentences
  • A tired old boy band singing a cover version of a song that was rubbish anyway?
  • Good, bad or just plain wrong, If I see a cover version of a song I know, I have to have it.
  • Is it, therefore, a coincidence that their biggest hit so far is essentially a cover version; albeit a cheeky one?
5A place setting at a table in a restaurant: the busiest time is in summer, with up to a thousand covers for three meals a day
Rendering French couvert
More example sentences
  • Slightly smaller, with about 40 covers, the restaurant will continue to produce his distinctive cuisine.
  • The restaurant had covers of 110 and I was the senior wine waiter.
  • In his first week of trading alone, he did 540 covers, and the restaurant received a Michelin star last month.
6 Cricket short for cover point. an easy catch by Hick at cover
More example sentences
  • At this time enter sheer farce: when prop Stuart Murray had to leave the pitch Kelso had no cover and the game took on a new turn.
6.1 (the covers) An area of the field consisting of cover point and extra cover: deliveries pitching outside leg stump are pounded through the covers
More example sentences
  • He was in good touch, his faultless timing through the covers and midwicket again in evidence.
  • No-one drives it through the covers quite like Brian Lara does.
  • After his 40 in the first innings, he was again in fine touch with a nice line in midwicket whips and punches through the covers.
7 Ecology The amount of ground covered by a vertical projection of the vegetation, usually expressed as a percentage.
Example sentences
  • Percentage cover of crusts was then estimated in the field by the visual-estimation method.
  • Vegetation cover dissipates the kinetic energy of the rain drops before reaching to ground surface.
  • One is to get adequate ground cover to avoid erosion from wind and water.



break cover

Suddenly leave a place of shelter, especially vegetation, when being hunted or pursued: it was more than likely that the tigress would break cover and try to rush me
More example sentences
  • We broke cover and fought our way towards the school house.
  • I saw a lone soldier break cover and run across to a ferry or barge moored on the bank of the river Po.
  • You and a few others break cover, sprinting up the beach as if hell itself had you in it's sight.

cover all the bases

Deal with something thoroughly: we thought our legal department had covered all the bases in our terms and conditions
More example sentences
  • As befits Colonial Williamsburg, the present large book about its costume collection covers all bases.
  • A book with a tripartite title may be said to cover all bases, and it does just that.
  • It seemed to cover all bases although I was surprised that the court case was glossed over so quickly.

cover one's back (or North American ass)

informal Foresee and avoid the possibility of attack or criticism: never take chances, always cover your back
More example sentences
  • If that's not the sign of a man covering his ass, I don't know what is.
  • If Ashcroft was sane, he'd realize it's time to cover his ass by farming this out.
  • Young people should realize that he will not hesitate to put their lives on the line to cover his ass.

cover oneself in (or with) glory [often negative]

Perform very well: we didn’t exactly cover ourselves in glory with our batting
More example sentences
  • With only two victories away from St. James' Park all season they have hardly covered themselves in glory on their travels.
  • All in Holland or with a Dutch national side which barely covered itself in glory.
  • Alas, not everyone who wraps himself in the flag covers himself in glory.

cover one's position

Purchase securities in order to be able to fulfil a commitment to sell.
Example sentences
  • If a stock has a high short interest, short positions may be forced to liquidate and cover their position by purchasing the stock.
  • So the trader covers his position and takes his profits to move on to the next stock on his list.
  • Many have been selling shares that they don't own in the expectation that they will be able to take stock in the placing to cover their position.

cover one's tracks

Conceal evidence of one’s activities: he covered his tracks so well no one has ever been able to prove anything
More example sentences
  • Through a gruelling trial Gill lied and attempted to cover his tracks despite the evidence stacked against him.
  • Harrison, with Ashbury's help, manufactures evidence in hopes of covering his tracks.
  • Belle had to find an out of the way place to hide, covering her tracks along the way.

cover the waterfront

North American informal Cover every aspect of something: while half the dishes are Italian, the kitchen covers the waterfront from Greece to Morocco
More example sentences
  • The influence of cable news is - it covers the waterfront.
  • I plead guilty to the charge that a short essay did not cover the waterfront.
  • A former correspondent and editor covers the waterfront of problems that afflict higher education.

from cover to cover

From beginning to end of a book or magazine: it’s a book to be read from cover to cover
More example sentences
  • I read this book from cover to cover within a day.
  • I can't remember the last time I read a book from cover to cover.
  • Read whole books from cover to cover without interruptions

take cover

Protect oneself from attack by ducking down into or under a shelter: if the bombing starts, take cover in the basement
More example sentences
  • The man ducked and took cover on the opposite side of the bar.
  • Everyone either ducked or took cover behind the slick columns.
  • Sam takes cover and ducks behind a support post.

under cover

Under a roof or other shelter: store seats under cover before the bad weather sets in
More example sentences
  • League standards deem stadiums must have a minimum capacity of 6,000 including 2,000 seats under cover.
  • This habitat should also contain densely vegetated corridors to allow these secretive birds to move under cover.
  • They were smart enough to stay indoors, and under cover.

under cover of

Concealed by: the yacht made landfall under cover of darkness
More example sentences
  • Eventually we were ordered to withdraw to the river and tried to cross under cover of darkness.
  • The hands of the authorities are strengthened by flights under cover of darkness.
  • And those that are left are either in hiding, or slipped out of the city under cover of darkness.
11.1While pretending to do: Moran watched every move under cover of reading the newspaper
More example sentences
  • You abused them under cover of medical examination.

under plain cover

In an envelope or parcel without any marks to identify the sender.
Example sentences
  • Sales literature posted will be sent under plain cover and will only bear names and addresses on the outside.
  • We'll send the relevant unbranded product spec sheets under plain cover direct to your clients.
  • All correspondence is sent under plain cover to an address of your choice.

under separate cover

In a separate envelope.
Example sentences
  • The Examiner should transmit the form with a note specifying what documents will be forwarded later under separate cover.
  • Maps have also issued under separate cover to some 24,000 farmers who made changes to their land parcels.
  • These maps are being issued at the same time under separate cover.

Phrasal verbs

cover something up

Try to hide the fact of illegal or illicit activity: the prime minister was accused of trying to cover up the scandal
More example sentences
  • Police believe the mistakes were covered up because admitting to the errors would leave them open to further scandal.
  • Yes, she was murdered in London about seven years ago, and it was covered up by the government.
  • Many other episodes were covered up to protect him from the media.
conceal, hide;
keep secret, hush up, keep dark, draw a veil over, suppress, sweep under the carpet, gloss over
informal whitewash, keep a/the lid on



Example sentences
  • There seemed to be too many issues to be coverable in one post.
  • Because he was not coverable by the media, it was not known that he was selling out 15,000-seat auditoriums.
  • The bruises around my waist were coverable but by far the ones which caused the most distress.


Middle English: from Old French covrir, from Latin cooperire, from co- (expressing intensive force) + operire 'to cover'. The noun is partly a variant of covert.

Words that rhyme with cover

Glover, hardcover, lover, plover, undercover

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: cover

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