General English


  • A female of the bovine species, usually used for milking and reproduction and then for cheap beef or manufactured beef products


  • noun an unpleasant or extremely irritating task, experience or sensation, etc. In this sense the word is often used in the phrase ‘a cow of a job’, etc.

Origin & History of “cow”

English has two completely distinct words cow. The commoner, ‘female of cattle’ (OE), is a word of very ancient ancestry. It goes back via west and north Germanic *kōuz to a hypothetical Indo-European *gwōus, which was also the source of Latin bōs (from which English gets bovine, beef, and bugle, not to mention Bovril). In modern English its plural is cows, but Old English had an anomalous plural, , which in the remodelled form kine survived dialectally into the 20th century. The other cow, ‘intimidate, daunt’ (17th c.), probably comes from Old Norse kúga ‘oppress’.