Definition of kowtow in English:


Line breaks: kow¦tow
Pronunciation: /kaʊˈtaʊ


[no object]
  • 2 historical Kneel and touch the ground with the forehead in worship or submission as part of Chinese custom.
    More example sentences
    • In ‘Keeper of the Keys,’ Chan has to deal with a much older Chinese servant who kowtows to his white master in embarrassing fashion.
    • Supplicants no longer approached the imperial presence on their knees, bruising their foreheads as they kowtowed so hard that the emperor heard their respect from the sound of their heads hitting the floor.
    • They said his actions were more wicked and despicable than earlier claims of a foreign hostess forcing Chinese female workers to kowtow and a security guard frisking female workers.
    prostrate oneself, bow, bow down before, genuflect, do/make obeisance, fall on one's knees before, get down on one's knees before, kneel before; salaam, throw oneself at someone's feet, fall down before someone, curtsy, bow and scrape; pay homage, show reverence, show deference, humble oneself before someone, worship


historical Back to top  
  • An act of kowtowing as part of Chinese custom.
    More example sentences
    • Chang kowtows before the Emperor, who tells him of his mission.





early 19th century: from Chinese kētóu, from 'knock' + tóu 'head'.

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