cough

Definitions

General English

  • noun the act of making a noise by sending the air out of your lungs suddenly, e.g. when you are ill
  • verb to make a noise by sending air out of your lungs suddenly, e.g. because you are ill

Medical

  • an infection that causes coughing
  • noun a reflex action, caused by irritation in the throat, when the glottis is opened and air is sent out of the lungs suddenly
  • verb to send air out of the lungs suddenly because the throat is irritated

Slang

  • verb to confess to a crime, to reluctantly give up information. A police and underworld term influenced by the notion of coughing up something stuck in the throat.

Travel

  • noun a sound made when somebody has an irritation in the throat and air is sent out of the lungs suddenly

Origin & History of “cough”

Although it is largely disguised by the modern English pronunciation, cough is of onomatopoeic origin. It came from a prehistoric Germanic base *kokh- (the kh pronounced not unlike the ch of loch), which initiated the sound of coughing. this has no recorded Old English descendant (although one probably existed, *cohhian), and first appears in the language as middle English coughen.
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