\ \ [19] The approved Chinese method of signifying respect for the emperor or other august personages was to prostrate oneself so that one’s forehead touched the ground. This was expressed in Mandarin Chinese by the term ke tóu (ke means ‘knock, bump’ and tóuhead’).
\ \ English took the word over in the early 19th century and spelled it in various experimental ways (koo-too, ka-tou, kotow, etc) before settling on kowtow in the early 20th century. The first writer on record as using the word in the metaphorical sense ‘defer servilely’ was Benjamin Disraeli in his Vivian Grey 1826: ‘The Marqess kotooed like a first-rate Mandarin, and vowed “that her will was his conduct”.

Word origins - 2ed. . 2005.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Kowtow — Студийный альбом Pendragon …   Википедия

  • Kowtow — Kow*tow , n. [Chinese, knock head.] The prostration made by mandarins and others to their superiors, either as homage or worship, by knocking the forehead on the ground; same as {Kotow}. There are degrees in the rite, the highest being expressed… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Kowtow — Kow*tow , v. i. [imp. & p. p. {Kowtowed}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Kowtowing}.] To perform the kowtow. Same as {Kotow} [1913 Webster] I have salaamed and kowtowed to him. H. James. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • kowtow — [kou′tou΄] n. [Chin k o t ou, lit., bump head] the act of kneeling and touching the ground with the forehead to show great deference, submissive respect, homage, etc., as formerly in China vi. 1. to perform a kowtow 2. to show servile respect… …   English World dictionary

  • kowtow — (n.) also kow tow, 1804, from Chinese k o t ou custom of touching the ground with the forehead to show respect or submission, lit. knock the head, from k o knock, bump + t ou head. The verb in the figurative sense of act in an obsequious manner… …   Etymology dictionary

  • kowtow — meaning ‘to act obsequiously’, is pronounced with each syllable to rhyme with cow, and is no longer spelt ko tow …   Modern English usage

  • kowtow — [v] grovel bow, brownnose*, cave in*, court, cower, cringe, fawn, flatter, fold, genuflect, give in, go along with, kneel, knuckle under, lie down and roll over*, pander, prostrate, say uncle*, stoop, toe the mark*; concept 384 …   New thesaurus

  • kowtow — ► VERB 1) historical kneel and touch the ground with the forehead in submission as part of Chinese custom. 2) be excessively subservient towards someone. ORIGIN Chinese …   English terms dictionary

  • Kowtow — For similar gestures in other cultures, see Prostration. Kotou redirects here. For the village in Burkina Faso, see Kotou, Burkina Faso. Kowtow Kowtowing in a court Chinese name …   Wikipedia

  • Kowtow — Sujet faisant kowtow devant une cour de justice Sujets f …   Wikipédia en Français

  • kowtow — kowtower, n. /kow tow , tow , koh /, v.i. 1. to act in an obsequious manner; show servile deference. 2. to touch the forehead to the ground while kneeling, as an act of worship, reverence, apology, etc., esp. in former Chinese custom. n. 3. the… …   Universalium

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