To cow is human; to verb divine

21 April 2017

“cow” is also a verb.

cow /kaʊ/

verb: cow; 3rd person present: cows; past tense: cowed; past participle: cowed; gerund or present participle: cowing

cause (someone) to submit to one’s wishes by intimidation.

“the intellectuals had been cowed into silence”

synonyms: intimidate, daunt, browbeat, bully, badger, dragoon, bludgeon, tyrannize, overawe, awe, dismay, dishearten, unnerve, subdue, scare, terrorize, frighten, petrify; informalpsych out, bulldoze, railroad

“has he cowed you all with his threats?”

The origins of this form of ‘cow’ comes from the old 16th century Old Norse kúga, meaning to oppress. This is interesting given that cow the noun, the one we’re all familiar with (goes moo, yeah that one), has Germanic origins (which then flowed on to Old English, Dutch and German).

One word. Two completely different origins.