Definition of cotton in US English:



  • 1A soft white fibrous substance that surrounds the seeds of a tropical and subtropical plant and is used as textile fiber and thread for sewing.

    ‘a cargo of cotton and wheat’
    ‘a white cotton blouse’
    ‘an Indian hammock woven in colored cottons’
    • ‘Costumes featured pink headdresses and women in white cotton dresses.’
    • ‘For rust stains on white cotton, gently scrub the area with lemon juice and let the sun bleach it.’
    • ‘The pure white cotton she wore was sullied and ragged from thorns of cactus and scrambling over hard rocks of the narrow pass.’
    • ‘The company uses rayon or soft cotton for the shirts and can meet any size request.’
    • ‘Wear clothes that are made from natural fibres like cotton, linen and silk; they allow your skin to breathe.’
    • ‘They are usually very lint free, usually cotton, are very soft and durable and wash very well!’
    • ‘The materials used are silk, silk organza, cotton, brocade and velvet.’
    • ‘A bride, as in early days, wears a white robe woven of white cotton by her uncles.’
    • ‘Always handle the prints with white cotton, lint-free gloves.’
    • ‘While drying thousands of pounds of black and white cotton clothing, she slowly monoprinted texts on the lint trapped against the screen.’
    • ‘It is woven of white wool with red cotton piping.’
    • ‘Men wear a thob, a simple ankle-length robe of wool or cotton, usually in white or earth tones.’
    • ‘For those who appreciate quality cotton and silk textiles, this show is a must.’
    • ‘Once inside he removed his shirt, replacing it with the white cotton one his mother had made him earlier that month.’
    • ‘His breeches were an expensive black velvet, but his shirt was a common white cotton with a neat and fashionable ruffle.’
    • ‘The material was always soft like silk or cotton.’
    • ‘There were different weaves in jute and blends of jute with cotton and silk.’
    • ‘Finally the ash falls on his white cotton slacks and he sweeps it with his hand in an absent-minded manner.’
    • ‘I dressed quickly and simply in a white dress of soft cotton.’
    • ‘How about his superbly comfortable walking shorts in sunflower yellow, sky blue, burnt orange, tan, and white cotton?’
    1. 1.1 A thread of cotton fiber.
      • ‘The firm's services range from tracking fashion trends to developing scientific methods that can be used to measure the quality of cotton fibers.’
      • ‘They also weave cotton into white cloth with brown and black stripes.’
      • ‘The answer to the problem of protecting plants while not trapping the wings of sparrows on strands of cotton is quite simple.’
      • ‘The new sign also reflects the industrial history of the area, showing mills, looms and cotton reels.’
      • ‘The coils sit on cotton reel spools that are placed on the plastic ribs that make up the ovoid shape.’
      • ‘Fear not, you won't be needing a needle and cotton.’
      • ‘I sighed with frustration as I failed to thread the strand of white cotton through the eye of the needle for the fourth time and stifled the urge to throw the needle across the room.’
      • ‘Not only is it good for dental hygiene but it can also be used as a clothes line, cotton for darning clothes or string for tying things up.’
      • ‘They're usually crafted from a blend of cotton and stretchy synthetic fiber, which provides a great fit and a modern feel.’
      • ‘Toy cotton reels or buttons can be sorted by colour or threaded on to laces, while plastic pegs can be used for pattern-making and counting.’
      • ‘In a small tin in the bottom of the pillowcase she finds needles and cotton and between sips of her tea and another pipe, she darns the holes in the hessian bag with those same deliberate tiny stitches.’
      • ‘If there's more than one tray, place four cotton reels strategically so that you can stack one tray on top of another.’
      • ‘Identification of a locus specific to fiber development is an important step toward manipulation and improvement of cotton fiber properties.’
      • ‘Pick a loose strand of cotton off the back of someone's jacket or trouser leg or something.’
      • ‘The photographer scattered cotton reels on our billowing skirts and we pretended to weave some kilts for our wild Scottish blokes out there in the hills.’
      • ‘He could see Mac's estate car ahead, slowing to negotiate its way between the skips full of crew's refuse, discarded palettes and giant empty cotton reels.’
      • ‘They do not shoot out of the spaces between the vertebrae (the tower of cotton reels that makes up your spine) and produce pain that way.’
      thread, wool, fibre, filament, strand
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    2. 1.2North American Absorbent cotton.
      • ‘Cotton swab palpation of areas outside the vulvar vestibule result in minimal pain.’
      • ‘Once they conceive a quilt, the fabrics are chosen, cut up and combined using organic cotton wadding.’
      • ‘Fluid may be cleaned from the connection sites with cotton swabs, if needed.’
  • 2The plant that is commercially grown for cotton products. Oil and a protein-rich flour are also obtained from the seeds.

    Genus Gossypium, family Malvaceae: many species and forms, including G. barbadense, which is grown in the southern US

    • ‘The £240,000 sculptures each depict a different stage in the life of a blooming cotton plant.’
    • ‘Fiber is removed from cotton at the gin stands, then foreign matter and other contaminants are removed by the lint cleaners.’
    • ‘Four main crops are soya, maize, cotton and oilseed rape.’
    • ‘They have grown everything from sunflowers, poppies and hollyhocks to corn, cotton, potatoes, coconuts and dandelions.’
    • ‘The protein, made by a gene transferred to the cotton plant by gene-splicing techniques, is toxic to certain insects but not to humans or other mammals.’
    • ‘Rarely did Sadie find herself bent over rows and rows of white cotton, batting away flies and wiping the sweat from her brow.’
    • ‘One day, during a lunch break, I found a semblance of shadow under the branches of a cotton plant, lay down and opened a notepad.’
    • ‘Finally enterprising farmers who produced a surplus could sell their excess for coin, invest in more land, and grow cash crops like cotton and tobacco.’
    • ‘On the other hand, he explained that the current hunger in his area was due to people concentrating on growing cash crops such as cotton instead of maize.’
    • ‘Those in the tropical forests also grew cotton and plants used for medicinal purposes.’
    • ‘Southwest Georgia is best known for its pine trees, cotton fields and peanuts.’
    • ‘Thinking back, the impression I have is of a cotton plant painted silver.’
    • ‘Each sculpture represents a different stage in the development of the cotton plant.’
    • ‘Either the genes for making silk could be genetically engineered into microorganisms or something similar could be done with cotton plant genes.’
    • ‘Sassenrath says her ultimate goal is to determine fiber quality on-board the picker and have the cotton classed right there in the field.’
    • ‘The cotton plant is very sensitive to low available soil K.’
    • ‘Thanks to plant breeding and irrigation, commercially grown cotton produces very high yields.’
    • ‘A period of 6 weeks is required for a cotton plant to complete opening of all bolls.’
    • ‘For example, a cotton plant could be protected from certain pests by being engineered to carry a particular gene that kills the pests.’
    • ‘Although the cotton plant can tolerate leaf damage and tip boring up to 50 per cent before yield is reduced, it is more susceptible to pest damage than most crops especially in the rainy season.’


[no object]informal
  • 1cotton onBegin to understand.

    ‘he cottoned on to what I was trying to say’
    • ‘I'm sure it's only a matter of time before the big clubs cotton on to him.’
    • ‘Domestic consumers in particular in the city have failed to cotton on to certain intricacies of the new tariff plan, though their ignorance could hardly hurt the interests of the Board!’
    • ‘However, it seems many firms are beginning to cotton on.’
    • ‘You're full of sensationally liberating ideas, but this week other people may be slow to cotton on.’
    • ‘‘If you believe in yourself for long enough, someone will cotton on.’’
    • ‘The only thing that surprises me is that it has taken advertisers so long to cotton on to the possibilities.’
    • ‘English divers are beginning to cotton on to the underwater delights of Ireland's Atlantic coast.’
    • ‘Given this it's probably going to be a wee while yet before employers cotton on to why you appear to be so engrossed in your work.’
    • ‘I could never understand why people didn't cotton on.’
    • ‘Once adults cotton on to them they stop using them.’
    • ‘And then you cotton on to the fact it's probably the weakest track on the new album, but still almost close to perfection.’
    • ‘If more students cotton on to the potential savings from overseas online purchases, however, the price picture will change.’
    • ‘I didn't cotton on to the fact it was a Hotel restaurant, otherwise I probably would not have jumped at the suggestion so eagerly.’
    • ‘When supermarkets in Britain started running out of cheap cooking oil it took a while to cotton on to what was happening.’
    • ‘Why wouldn't it be the case that only the quickest students cotton on and answer all the questions?’
    • ‘‘My dogs can cotton on to certain words in English or in Welsh, there's no doubt about it at all.’’
    • ‘Vienna may now be second only to Paris as art-history capital of Europe, but city-breakers have yet to cotton on to the fact, and many of its stupendous exhibits are mercifully uncrowded.’
    • ‘In identifying that sport can act to promote social inclusion, it perhaps was years ahead of the government, whose social-inclusion partnerships are barely beginning to cotton on to the fact.’
    • ‘These ‘young’ students cotton on straight away.’
    • ‘But even though there is little outward show of anything metaphysical going on, my cats quickly cotton on to what I am doing.’
    realize, understand, comprehend, grasp, see, know, apprehend
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  • 2cotton toNorth American Have a liking for.

    ‘his rivals didn't cotton to all the attention he was getting’
    • ‘Of course, once Joe cottoned to this idea of visual stimulation, he completely threw himself into it.’
    • ‘And I don't cotton to you messing with her, you hear?’
    • ‘Fans enjoy the comfort of familiarity and don't cotton to corrections in cast, tone, or circumstances.’
    • ‘But as I've never cottoned to either team, I'll concede my sympathy to the unrepresented taxpayers who foot the stadium bills.’
    • ‘I don't cotton to people telling me when and where I can go.’
    • ‘Most European leaders don't cotton to nicknames too well.’
    • ‘Should one cotton to the music, this is a far handier and more thoughtful bonus inclusion than those discs that simply package the soundtrack audio on the DVD itself.’
    • ‘And what an introduction it is: much like Jones himself it's an entertainingly naïve, indignant, and jealous document that helps one to immediately cotton to Jones.’
    • ‘But they don't cotton to notions of ‘maturity’ and such anyway.’
    • ‘But Freddie didn't cotton to that newfangled stuff.’
    • ‘The irony of the whole thing is that staying put has been very helpful for my kid, but now he's one of the ‘oldtimers’ clique at school who don't cotton to letting the new kids in!’
    • ‘Although I've never cottoned to it, but it's still the kind of song 90 per cent of songwriters would be proud to pen.’
    • ‘The government could reduce other spending, but that will be difficult because all government spending is backed by well-organized interest groups who do not cotton to proposed cuts.’
    • ‘The result is a more emotionally accessible, less regimented film that should appeal to thriller lovers who don't usually cotton to his eccentricities.’
    • ‘I never quite cottoned to his replacement.’
    • ‘But despite that continued use, no prescriptivist has ever condemned it as a solecism, perhaps because it's hard to cotton to.’
    • ‘I don't cotton to the ex saying anything like that to our child.’
    • ‘She can't stay with my Mom because my Mom has this behemoth of a cat that doesn't cotton to other felines in the vicinity.’
    • ‘I'm sure you can imagine how New Yorkers cotton to hearing that when they're working in tall buildings.’
    • ‘My kid knows me too well to imagine I would actually awaken him if he really fell asleep, so he didn't cotton to trying to nap in his room.’
    like, love, enjoy, have a liking for, be fond of, be keen on, have a fondness for, have a weakness for, have a soft spot for, have a taste for, be taken with, care for, have a penchant for, have a predilection for, have a proclivity for, be enamoured of
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Late Middle English: from Old French coton, from Arabic quṭn.