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How to pronounce kowtow (audio)


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Dictionary definition of kowtow

To show extreme respect, obedience, or submissiveness, usually through bowing or prostrating oneself.
"The coach urged his team to kowtow to the principles of fair play."

Detailed meaning of kowtow

The word is often used in reference to a traditional Chinese custom in which a person would bow down and touch their forehead to the ground as a sign of reverence or submission. The act of kowtowing is typically performed in front of a person of higher social or political status, such as a king, emperor, or religious leader. In modern usage, the term is often used metaphorically to describe a situation in which someone shows excessive submissiveness or deference to another person or authority. Regardless of the context, kowtowing involves a display of extreme respect, humility, and obedience.

Example sentences containing kowtow

1. He refused to kowtow to the demands of the bully.
2. He refuses to kowtow to anyone's demands.
3. The leader expects everyone to kowtow to his authority.
4. She would rather stand up for herself than kowtow to unfair rules.
5. The company's CEO does not kowtow to pressure from shareholders.
6. We should never kowtow to bullies or tyrants.

History and etymology of kowtow

The verb 'kowtow' has a fascinating etymology deeply rooted in Chinese culture and history. The term comes from the Chinese word 'kòu tóu' (磕头), where 'kòu' means 'to knock' or 'to touch the ground with the forehead,' and 'tóu' means 'head.' This practice of knocking one's head on the ground as a sign of extreme respect and submission has a long history in Chinese society, particularly in the context of paying homage to emperors or higher authorities. It was a gesture of utmost deference and loyalty. The term 'kowtow' was borrowed into English in the early 19th century to describe a similar act of extreme respect, obedience, or submissiveness, usually through bowing or prostrating oneself, although it is now often used more broadly to convey any form of excessive deference or compliance.

Quiz: Find the meaning of kowtow

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Further usage examples of kowtow

1. The politician's refusal to kowtow to special interests won him respect from the public.
2. Despite the pressure, she remained strong and refused to kowtow.
3. They expected us to kowtow to their demands, but we stood our ground.
4. The diplomat's refusal to kowtow to foreign powers was seen as a sign of strength.
5. The fearless activist refused to kowtow to oppressive regimes.
6. The students chose to kowtow to the professor's authority out of fear of consequences.
7. The athlete's success came from hard work, not kowtowing to shortcuts.
8. We should strive for independence rather than kowtowing to others' opinions.
9. The artist's unique style showcased her refusal to kowtow to artistic norms.
10. The judge's decision showed that she would not kowtow to political pressure.
11. The new leader promised not to kowtow to corporate interests.
12. The journalist's integrity prevented her from kowtowing to sensationalism.
13. The captain's leadership inspired his team to never kowtow to defeat.
14. The nation's refusal to kowtow to foreign invasions led to its independence.



grovel, defy, resist, oppose


Command and Constraint, Middle School 11, Praise and Respect

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