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  • WordNet 3.6
    • v kotow try to gain favor by cringing or flattering "He is always kowtowing to his boss"
    • n kotow a former Chinese custom of touching the ground with the forehead as a sign of respect or submission
    • ***
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • n Kotow The prostration made by mandarins and others to their superiors, either as homage or worship, by knocking the forehead on the ground; a kowtow. There are degrees in the rite, the highest being expressed by three knockings.
    • v. i Kotow To perform the kotow. Now usually spelled kowtow.
    • ***
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n kotow A knocking of the forehead on the ground while kneeling, as an act of homage, reverence, worship, respect, etc. It is the ceremony of prostration performed in China by persons admitted to the imperial presence, in religious ceremonies, before magistrates, by an inferior to a superior, especially in making a humble apology, etc. Before the emperor and in worship the person performing the kotow-kneels three times, and touches the ground with the forehead three times after each kneeling.
    • kotow To knock the forehead on the ground while kneeling, as an act of reverence, worship, apology, etc.; perform the kotow; hence, to fawn or be obsequious; cringe.
    • ***
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • n Kotow kō-tow′ the Chinese ceremony of prostration
    • v.i Kotow to perform that ceremony, to abase one's self.—Also Kowtow′
    • ***


Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
Chinese, knock head


In literature:

The great gates were thrown open and there in the gateway the female members of the family knelt and kotowed as the chair passed by.
"Court Life in China" by Isaac Taylor Headland
In thus kotowing he was only getting in line with the citizens of most of the other effete monarchies of Europe.
"The Underdog" by F. Hopkinson Smith
Mr. Baker, who was clerk of the crown, and Mr. Brown, who was clerk of the Parliament, kotowed to Lord David.
"The Man Who Laughs" by Victor Hugo
He laughed when the bowing and kotowing was over, and turned on his heel to confront another problem.
"Dutch Courage and Other Stories" by Jack London
What a craning of necks, what a kotowing!
"The Voice in the Fog" by Harold MacGrath
He laughed when the bowing and kotowing was over, and turned on his heel to confront another problem.
"Stories of Ships and the Sea" by Jack London
As soon as he saw me he fell down upon his knees and "kotow'd" to me, with every mark of the liveliest gratitude.
"An Australian in China" by George Ernest Morrison
Even in the midst of a mess like this we'll have to kotow to his rank or he'll probably be reporting us.
"The U-boat hunters" by James B. Connolly
We got in wrong at the start with them; we didn't kotow to them and they've always been expecting it.
"The Man Next Door" by Emerson Hough
Now, nobody ever kotows to us at home.
"A Gentleman's Gentleman" by F. Hopkinson Smith
He was smiling and kotowing.
"The Pagan Madonna" by Harold MacGrath
Johann George, Mathilde, Isabelle and Max are kotowing to me.
"Secret Memoirs: The Story of Louise, Crown Princess" by Henry W. Fischer