Definition of cough in US English:

cough

verb

[no object]
  • 1Expel air from the lungs with a sudden sharp sound.

    • ‘She heard what sounded like a man coughing and hacking.’
    • ‘We also hear incidental sounds like children coughing and yelling, objects being moved, and so on.’
    • ‘I cough and cough as my lungs feel scratchy and abrasive.’
    • ‘Breathing in ash that stung my lungs I coughed, bending forward and finding support against someone else's shoulder.’
    • ‘The bitter smell of acid and smoke filled her lungs, and she coughed.’
    • ‘She coughed, expelling the last of the water, and scrambled to her feet.’
    • ‘You will cough and the inner tubes of your lungs will ache.’
    • ‘He coughed again, sounding like a submerged jeep trying to be extricated from a lake of mud.’
    • ‘She coughed and it sounded as if her chest were slowly being torn apart from the inside.’
    • ‘Smoke began entering her lungs and she started coughing.’
    • ‘I sucked in a sharp breath, almost coughing on it.’
    • ‘The chair's legs squeaked against the floor as she pushed it away and coughed, her body expelling the pill across to the far side of the table.’
    • ‘She coughed liquid from her lungs and took her first real breath of air.’
    • ‘The larynx acts to protect against food getting into the lungs and makes coughing possible.’
    • ‘The boy coughed politely, the sound rumbling pleasantly in the back of this throat, and I realized that he was still waiting for me to grasp his hand.’
    • ‘Suddenly he coughed, or it sounded like it, and he placed his hand on the side of my head.’
    • ‘I coughed, my lungs contracting to rid me of the disgusting substance.’
    • ‘The smoke was getting to her lungs while she started coughing, harder and harder.’
    • ‘The smoke filled my lungs and I coughed repeatedly, not gaining the breath that I needed.’
    • ‘They felt their way forward towards the sound of a woman coughing.’
    1. 1.1 (of an engine) make a sudden harsh noise, especially as a sign of malfunction.
      • ‘The engine coughed to life, and it started to go immediately.’
      • ‘The old engine coughed in the dampness, and exhaust fumes seeped into the car under the seat.’
      • ‘Those motors did not cough or sputter once that night.’
      • ‘Motorists wait in traffic, their sputtering engines coughing a gray haze into the air.’
      • ‘I switched to reserve and the engine coughed twice, then came to life!’
      • ‘At 4,500 ft the engine coughed and at 4,000 ft its full-throated bellow killed the silence.’
      • ‘The engine is coughing and spluttering and nobody knows quite how to keep the thing going.’
      • ‘The propeller was spun, the engine coughed into life and a throaty roar was heard as it taxied down the racecourse before rising into flight.’
      • ‘And from the deep bowels of the ship, an engine coughed, spluttered and finally came on with a roar.’
      • ‘After several agonizing minutes of waiting for the engine to cough and die, I spotted a sign for a fishing camp, which had gasoline.’
      • ‘The boat's engine had coughed and wheezed for a good ten minutes before he had been able to coax it into working order.’
      • ‘Quickly I entered my car and started the engine, which coughed and wheezed into life.’
      • ‘The engine coughed again, then again.’
      • ‘At tile start the dual exhausts have a throaty rumble as the engine coughs to life.’
      • ‘The gun ship settled down to the ground and bounced around as the one good engine coughed and sputtered.’
      • ‘The engine coughed, backfired, and a small explosion sent the transport's occupants flying.’
      • ‘After a few false attempts, the engine coughs back to life, spewing black diesel smoke.’
      • ‘Its engine coughed to a stop and the aircraft was out of the running even before becoming airborne.’
      • ‘He opened the throttle but the engine merely coughed and spluttered several times.’
      • ‘All seemed well and good, right up until the engines started to cough and sputter, and then die.’
    2. 1.2with object Force (something, especially blood) out of the lungs or throat by coughing.
      ‘he coughed up bloodstained fluid’
      • ‘For a while they were asleep and not bothering anyone - but then the one with pneumonia wakes up and starts coughing up a lung.’
      • ‘He turned his head to the side and coughed up more blood.’
      • ‘There was an old man at the far end of the carriage who appeared to be coughing up a lung.’
      • ‘I felt something wet and sticky in my throat, and I coughed it out in my hand.’
      • ‘He landed hard and got on his hands and knees trying to cough the water out of his lungs.’
      • ‘But just when it looked as if she was about to realise the American dream, she coughed blood into a handkerchief and her doctor diagnosed tuberculosis.’
      • ‘Many of the contestants who have coughed up their proverbial blood, sweat and tears for the last few months see the decision in a much different, more impatient light.’
      • ‘They travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, then they're coughed up, swallowed, and wind up in the small intestine.’
      • ‘I gasped for breath, trying to cough the water out of my throat.’
      • ‘She had begun to feel as if she were coughing up her own lungs.’
      • ‘In any event, it was unlikely that the blood in the lungs resulted from the nosebleed or coughing blood from the lungs.’
      • ‘He coughed up blood once and thought that if he didn't cough up more tomorrow, there was no need to worry.’
      • ‘Most of us are tired from doing it, and still coughing up all that fun stuff that develops in your lungs during summit day.’
      • ‘At least she hadn't coughed up any blood; that had to be a good sign.’
      • ‘The fermented drink burned my tongue and I ended up coughing it out, sputtering.’
      • ‘It makes me edgy to miss runs and cheat on the training, but I can't run with a searing pain in my foot or when I'm coughing up a lung.’
      • ‘But when she talks, it sounds like a seal coughing up a fish!’
      • ‘I coughed up blood, and tried to get back up but could not.’
      • ‘She screamed in pain again and started coughing blood.’
      • ‘Mia was on her side, trying to cough the water out of her lungs, her body trembling.’
      hack, hawk, bark, clear one's throat, hem, croak, wheeze, gasp, choke, struggle for breath, fight for air
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3cough something outwith object Say something in a harsh, abrupt way.
      ‘he coughed out his orders’
      • ‘Bruce took the joke and coughed a forced laugh out.’
      • ‘He coughed the word out to show his disagreement.’

noun

  • 1An act or sound of coughing.

    ‘she gave a discreet cough’
    • ‘The guys all elicited little coughs to hide their barks of laughter especially after they saw the look on her face.’
    • ‘The sound of a loud cough startled the two, and they looked up to see Jay standing in his parking space near them.’
    • ‘he tried to hide the sob under a false cough but the sound was just a slight wheezing noise.’
    • ‘He made a strange sound, half a cough and half a choke, then he just dissolved.’
    • ‘Respiratory tract symptoms may also persist for some months, including coughs and shortness of breath on exertion.’
    • ‘However, children who have frequent coughs or are breathing through their mouths because of stuffy noses might not be able to keep their mouths closed long enough for an accurate oral reading.’
    • ‘Other languages have different ways of mimicking the sound of a cough.’
    • ‘His breathing had slowed down with occasional coughs and spasms.’
    • ‘The sound of her gun dropping had cued him in, although Eric had tried earnestly to cover the sound with a cough.’
    • ‘A discreet cough at the door alerted them to the presence of a servant.’
    • ‘Symptoms of bronchiolitis include rapid breathing, a cough, wheezing, and fever.’
    • ‘She took a shuddering gasp and hacked a few good coughs.’
    • ‘Your child's doctor will determine how to treat your child based in part on what the cough sounds like.’
    • ‘His cough sounded like he was choking up a lung and maybe his heart to keep it company.’
    • ‘Even the sound of a cough might be enough to rid himself of the feeling of solitude.’
    • ‘The sake went down the wrong pipe, and I hacked a cough.’
    • ‘He was interrupted by a discreet cough behind him.’
    • ‘The audience responded with held breath and complete involvement: not a cough, not a sigh, not a sound, until the final moment when applause burst like a storm.’
    • ‘The silence was unnerving, as there was just the sound of a few coughs that echoed around the huge room.’
    • ‘He was staring at the fireplace, his eyes wide, trying to figure out what was wrong with him when he was snapped out of his reverie by the sound of a gentle cough behind him.’
    hack, rasp, croak, wheeze, tickle in one's throat
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    1. 1.1 A condition of the respiratory organs causing coughing.
      ‘he looked feverish and had a bad cough’
      • ‘Now is the ideal time to go to an acupuncturist if you want to improve your body's natural defences against winter coughs and colds.’
      • ‘It usually starts suddenly with fever, chills, headache, aching muscles and a cough or other respiratory symptoms.’
      • ‘The person develops a bad cough to get rid of the mucus.’
      • ‘It is helpful for coughs, bronchial spasms, and bronchitis.’
      • ‘Symptoms of the condition can include a cough, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, extreme fatigue or fever.’
      • ‘My baby has a bad cough and throws up after feeding.’
      • ‘Second, most coughs and colds are due to viruses.’
      • ‘He suffered from bad coughs and colds, but he never smoked or drank heavily.’
      • ‘Add in fever and the fact that my cough has gotten significantly worse in the last two days, and I'm concluding that I have the flu again.’
      • ‘I still have a bad cough as my body rids itself of sickness, but my head feels good.’
      • ‘Why do people bother coming to school when they have coughs that make them sound like sea lions?’
      • ‘In a bath, these oils can help soothe coughs and sore muscles, and calm the nerves.’
      • ‘He had a bad cough which he attributed to a lifetime breathing in petrol fumes.’
      • ‘With sugar or honey added, it was used for coughs, wheezing and difficult breathing.’
      • ‘A full set of case notes was found for 58 patients who had X-rays requested because of chest symptoms such as a cough or breathlessness.’
      • ‘Not surprisingly, malnourishment and illness like fevers, coughs, malaria, scabies and diarrhoea are common.’
      • ‘Most were children or the elderly suffering from dermatitis, coughs and respiratory problems, he said.’
      • ‘It stopped the panic attacks, but the cough has gotten worse.’
      • ‘She had for weeks been suffering from a bad cough and chest infection.’
      • ‘It has been shown to sooth irritable coughs and other respiratory problems.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • cough something up (or cough up)

    • Give something reluctantly, especially money or information that is due or required.

      • ‘We didn't have enough possession and when we did get the ball we coughed it up too easily.’
      • ‘When they didn't have the ball, they strangled opponents into coughing it up.’
      • ‘He closely guarded company secrets but now is no doubt coughing them up.’
      • ‘But I coughed it up anyway, and then they came back and said that they want my old driver's license number.’
      • ‘The authorities intervened and forbade them from leaving till the amount was coughed up.’
      • ‘When your automated teller machines divide and arrange your money before coughing it up, they are all using partition theory.’
      • ‘Play eventually settled down a lot more, but players again slumped back into inefficient and unaccountable football, both teams guilty of coughing the ball up on numerous occasions, eight times in one particular passage of play.’
      • ‘You can click the link to see if the story sounds interesting enough to cough up five bucks for it.’
      • ‘I think he knows what's going on in his head and he isn't coughing it up.’
      • ‘Maybe there was some other reason - perhaps he will cough it up before he goes?’
      pay, pay up, pay out
      View synonyms

Origin

Middle English: of imitative origin; related to Dutch kuchen ‘to cough’ and German keuchen ‘to pant’.

Pronunciation

cough

/käf//kɑf/