Definition of cocktail in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkäkˌtāl/


1An alcoholic drink consisting of a spirit or several spirits mixed with other ingredients, such as fruit juice, lemonade, or cream: [as modifier]: cocktail parties a cocktail bar
More example sentences
  • The fight came at the end of a night's clubbing during which the prince is reported to have drunk vodka cocktails, tequila and beer.
  • Just as my fellow students were intimidated by formal grammar, a lot of otherwise sophisticated people are intimidated by spirits, cocktails and mixed drinks.
  • Spring is the time in her restaurant for rum drinks, cocktails with fruit and drinks with fizz.
1.1A mixture of substances or factors, especially when dangerous or unpleasant in its effects: financial pressure plus isolation can be a deadly cocktail for some people a cocktail of drugs that inhibits replication of HIV
More example sentences
  • The company is focusing on getting its cocktail, a mixture of three drugs, to market.
  • A well-known technique is to give horses a cocktail of substances from the same family of drugs.
  • A cocktail of substances is now burning from several storage containers, but fire authorities say the blaze is well under control.
2A dish consisting of small pieces of food, typically served cold at the beginning of a meal as an appetizer: a chilled lobster cocktail prettily presented in a martini glass
More example sentences
  • On the menu are such delights of Olde England: prawn cocktail, steak Diane and banana flambé
  • A tempting array of starters ranged from melon, garlic bread and prawn cocktail through to pasta dishes which could have been a main course in themselves.
  • Her preferences seem to rest mainly on seafood cocktails, shrimp and tilapia - a fish I normally find to be insipid stuff.


Early 17th century: from cock1 + tail1. The original use was as an adjective describing a creature with a tail like that of a cock, specifically a horse with a docked tail; hence (because hunters and coach horses were generally docked) a racehorse that was not a thoroughbred, having a cock-tailed horse in its pedigree (early 19th century). sense 1 (originally US, also early 19th century) is perhaps analogous, from the idea of an adulterated spirit.

  • The original use of cocktail was as a term to describe a creature with a tail like that of a cock, in particular a horse with a docked tail. Hunting horses and stagecoach horses generally had their tails shortened in this way, which led to the term being applied to a racehorse which was not a thoroughbred but ‘of mixed blood’, with a cock-tailed horse somewhere in its pedigree. It may be that the current sense of an alcoholic drink with a mixture of ingredients, which dates from the early 19th century, comes from this use, though the exact origin of the term is much debated.

Words that rhyme with cocktail


For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: cock·tail

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