Main definitions of sow in English

: sow1sow2



  • 1 Plant (seed) by scattering it on or in the earth.

    ‘sow a thin layer of seeds on top’
    • ‘If you're willing to do a little more work and exercise some patience, there is a way to eradicate or at least greatly reduce your weed population before you sow your flower seed.’
    • ‘With wheat, for example, men tend to prepare the earth and sow the seed, while women and children do much of the weeding.’
    • ‘To avoid future problems, make sure all seed trays are thoroughly cleaned before use, fill them with fresh, sterilised seed compost, sow the seeds thinly to prevent overcrowding and irrigate with mains water.’
    • ‘Two seeds were sown into each pot and thinned down after emergence to standardize initial seedling size.’
    • ‘Seeds were sown on 14 Apr. and the matured plants were harvested on 16 Aug. before the onset of flowering.’
    • ‘Three seeds were sown and plants thinned to one per pot when the first trifoliate leaf emerged.’
    • ‘It is too late in the year to sow seeds, but there is still time to order plants for delivery in March.’
    • ‘Gibson cautions that it is important to sow crop seeds correctly.’
    • ‘He sows seeds by broadcasting them on the ground in February, the coldest month of the year.’
    • ‘Four seeds were sown per pot and thinned to a single plant nearest the center.’
    • ‘Most gardeners propagate sagos from offsets from the mother plant, but you can sow fertilized seeds.’
    • ‘Now is the perfect time to sow a few seeds or plant out some seedlings.’
    • ‘The greatest difficulty in raising primroses from seeds however, is sowing the seeds in the proper sort of seed bed.’
    • ‘When you sow a seed or plant a tree, either the seed will germinate and the tree will grow, or they will die.’
    • ‘The lid has 49 corresponding spikes which make perfectly central holes in the compost for you to sow your seeds in.’
    • ‘In another area, he sows seeds to attract birds like linnets, reed buntings and bramblings.’
    • ‘So, never mind the fact that it's too late for plants, you can sow seeds in neat little rows now.’
    • ‘To sow the seeds, take a handful of seeds from the bag and fling them in front of your body in a fanning motion, letting the seeds roll down your fingers.’
    • ‘If you forgot to sow some seeds, young tender perennial plants can be bought, potted into individual containers and grown on.’
    • ‘Thankfully, I had the presence of mind to get straight outside and plant the Irises, spread the fertilizer and sow the grass seed before it got dark.’
    scatter, spread, broadcast, disperse, strew, disseminate, distribute
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Plant the seeds of (a plant or crop)
      ‘the corn had just been sown’
      • ‘Afghan farmers have returned to cotton cultivation, sowing the crop over 6,000 hectares of land in the northern Kunduz province after decades of strife.’
      • ‘Kale, mustard and turnips can be sown as edible winter cover crops that also can feed chickens or grazing animals in late winter.’
      • ‘Grass was sown and the soil was top-dressed but, in the cooler weather of autumn, growth was slow.’
      • ‘Many nurseries carry this plant, but it's not too late to sow a crop.’
      • ‘In 1947 the last wheat crop was sown and five years later the last farmer left followed by the last resident in 1954.’
      • ‘The crop was sown during December 1997 and harvested in late March 1998.’
      • ‘In the field, crops are often sown in late winter or early spring, with risks of prolonged root chilling during vegetative growth.’
      • ‘Maize was sown on two dates in each year; thus, plants sown early were exposed to low temperature, whereas those sown later developed under more favourable conditions.’
      • ‘They are otherwise treated as annuals and a fresh crop is sown from seed yearly.’
      • ‘There was no machinery so the farmer had to sow his crop by hand.’
      • ‘And there's no joy for farmers getting ready to sow winter crops, with diesel prices also set to rise.’
      • ‘Gardeners in frost-free areas can continue to sow beets, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, peas, radishes, and Swiss chard.’
      • ‘On one farm I know in Perthshire they have not even been able to sow their grass, let alone cut it.’
      • ‘By mid 1843 matters had improved and many of the settlers had cattle, sown a crop and found time, money and labour to build substantial houses.’
      • ‘The early commercial pea crops weren't sown in rows like home gardens, but were planted over the whole paddock and required a great deal of bending over to harvest the sweet green pods.’
      • ‘If you have a long growing season, sow a second crop in early summer, because the plants you start in spring will deteriorate before the season ends.’
      • ‘However, food supply has deteriorated as fewer and fewer farmers exist and little or no grain crops are sown.’
      • ‘Trees and bush were often cleared from areas where grass was sown, he said.’
      • ‘They later sowed flowers and grass along the stretch of ground immediately behind the face of the wall and the wire fence.’
      • ‘It is the first festival after the monsoon - traditionally a period when warfare was suspended and fighting men went back to their villages to sow their crops - so the timing is significant.’
    2. 1.2Plant (a piece of land) with seed.
      ‘the field used to be sown with oats’
      • ‘As a result, 14,313 acres of land were sown a second time around.’
      • ‘‘In previous years, no one even bothered to plant crops because our lands were dry like a desert, but that has all changed and everyone is sowing their land,’ he said.’
      • ‘The drought has caused great harm to the growing of wheat in the province, with more than about 733,000 hectares of wheat land unable to be sown.’
      plant, seed, reseed
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3Be thickly covered with.
      ‘we walked through a valley sown with boulders’
      • ‘It is easy to keep and breed in the laboratory, living happily in petri dishes that have been sown with lawns of Escherichia coli bacteria.’
    4. 1.4Cause to appear or spread.
      ‘the new policy has sown confusion and doubt’
      • ‘Or the collapse could all be part of a republican game plan to sow confusion among Unionists and reap the electoral rewards.’
      • ‘We should judge cases on an individual basis - and remember that tedious clichés about ‘playing God’ do little to advance understanding, but a lot to sow confusion.’
      • ‘I sensed he was mildly irritated, but also knew I'd succeeded in sowing a doubt in his mind.’
      • ‘These attacks could not have been better designed to sow doubt.’
      • ‘This is designed to sow doubts among his followers about his authenticity.’
      • ‘The complexity of this debate has sown confusion among feminist human rights activists, undermining the effectiveness of the global feminist movement.’
      • ‘Again, modern science's intrusion into a realm where it tends to sow confusion lies at the heart of the matter.’
      • ‘His openness and willingness to speak to the media sowed confusion rather than clarity.’
      • ‘But two accounting issues also may be sowing confusion.’
      • ‘But they are sowing confusion amid the forces of democracy.’
      • ‘It's a confidence game updated and used for political, or in this case, the artist's, purposes, which seem to lie partly in sowing confusion.’
      • ‘His presentation was consistent with one whose goal is to sow doubt about evolution, and to gain more recruits and allies than he already has.’
      • ‘Martin has the same gift for misunderstanding everyone and sowing chaos and confusion.’
      • ‘Don't let's spoil it by creating hydra-headed initiatives that end up competing with one another and sowing confusion in their wake.’
      • ‘They serve to undermine social consciousness and sow political confusion.’
      • ‘They sow doubt not only in the minds of the young men but also in the mature minds of army and naval officers and even of certain of our historians.’
      • ‘What happened to the record industry in 1948 was the result of dueling technical standards sowing market confusion.’
      • ‘Not only does this harm individual patients, but it also sows a dangerous confusion in the minds of people living with HIV, decision makers and the general public.’
      • ‘How long they get away with it depends on how long they can sow confusion and doubt.’
      • ‘Should Kansas voters decide to chisel the prohibition into the state constitution, they also will be sowing confusion and inviting litigation.’
      cause, bring about, occasion, create, give rise to, lead to, produce, engender, generate, induce, invite, implant, plant, lodge, prompt, evoke, elicit, initiate, precipitate, instigate, trigger, spark off, provoke
      View synonyms


  • sow the seeds (or seed) of

    • Do something that will eventually bring about (a particular result, especially a disastrous one)

      ‘the seeds of dissension had been sown’
      • ‘Only the disapprovingly arched eyebrow of the undercover trading standards investigator sows the seeds of doubt.’
      • ‘A steady exodus of educated women is worsening a gender gap among eastern Germany's young and could be sowing the seeds of social upheaval.’
      • ‘Success sows the seeds of future failure, and failure may bring a later success.’
      • ‘This experience sowed the seeds of the eventual skepticism I'd later feel towards much of my first church's teaching and practice.’
      • ‘But if we persist in our short-sighted and, let face it, greedy attitude to school places, then we're sowing the seeds of future anarchy.’
      • ‘The common thread that ran across the observations made by the leaders was that religion is a tool that should foster one's inner growth and not sow the seeds of discord.’
      • ‘Such are the quirks of youth that can herald sudden fancies, and occasionally sow the seeds of a lifetime's obsession.’
      • ‘Still ahead on the program, women in one Egyptian village are sowing the seeds of economic success, as traditional art meets high fashion.’
      • ‘Over 100 years previously, Rousseau, in a broader educational context, sowed the seeds of what is sometimes called the ‘child-centred’ view of education.’
      • ‘In my view it is this sort of indifference and ignorance to other people of the world that sows the seeds of terrorism.’


Old English sāwan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch zaaien and German säen.

Main definitions of sow in English

: sow1sow2



  • 1An adult female pig, especially one that has farrowed.

    • ‘Planners are concerned about the proposed new building to house pregnant sows which would have a floorspace of 400 square metres and a ridge height of eight metres.’
    • ‘Pregnant sows can still be kept in sow stalls for the first four weeks of their 16 1/2-week pregnancy and the lengthy phase-out period.’
    • ‘In stalls, the sow can move within the limits of the bars or fences.’
    • ‘However, individually housed sows can be protected from aggressive physical interactions if partitions are in place.’
    • ‘Claw lesions were reported to be more common in loose-housed sows than in either tethered or stallhoused sows.’
    • ‘The sow's milk production limits the growth of pigs prior to weaning.’
    • ‘Crates must be so designed that the farrowing sow will have a clear space behind her to facilitate easy farrowing and also able to prevent the newly born piglets from getting squashed.’
    • ‘Their pigs forage in fields and woods, their sows only produce two litters of piglets a year and pigs are prepared at the farm butchery, so there's no transport of live animals.’
    • ‘Why then, Lay wondered, are other sows so restless that their movements endanger piglets in those first 12 hours?’
    • ‘Apart from not seeing as many ploughs, you don't now see as many sows or cows scattered throughout the countryside.’
    • ‘When sows are housed in a social group, the experimental unit is clearly the pen or group of sows.’
    • ‘The practice may be warranted, however, to prevent injuries to pigs and sows.’
    • ‘At the start of the industry's depression in 1998 there were 850,000 breeding sows in the UK.’
    • ‘On average 800,000 pigs are slaughtered every year in New Zealand while some 50,000 sows are retained for breeding.’
    • ‘In the fall, he makes a daily chore out of selecting the best ears to plant the following season and feeding the culled ears to his gestating sows on pasture.’
    • ‘When breeding sows outlived their purpose they were sent to slaughter.’
    • ‘Lactation insufficiency in the sow is an extremely complex syndrome, and over 30 different etiologies have been associated with the problem.’
    • ‘Tethering may cause a sow to attempt to escape, especially when sows first experience the tether.’
    • ‘In those years, farmers typically raised only 25 or 30 pigs and three or four sows, he said.’
    • ‘A day before the sows are ready to farrow, the farrowing boxes are set up in the rooms.’
    1. 1.1The female of certain other mammals, e.g., the guinea pig.
      • ‘Management of the trial was designed to minimise adverse welfare effects on the badgers and included a three-month period in the spring during which no culling took place in order to protect lactating sows and their cubs.’
      • ‘These days, in fact, he tries to identify bears - such as the sow and her cubs we're looking for - that might get hooked and move them well before they do.’
      • ‘In Yellowstone, the loss of even half a dozen adult sows could tip the population into a downward spiral.’
      • ‘If the sow has not eaten enough to sustain herself over the hibernation, the egg will not implant.’
      • ‘Once he was filmed crawling along the ground singing as he approached a sow and two cubs.’
      • ‘It was our fourth day out and we had seen a few deer and lots of bears, including a grizzly sow and cub that had run out right in front of us while we were coming up to the hunting spot.’
      • ‘Bill and Madeline had even schooled the children in poses for various combinations of bears: a solo male, a sow with cubs.’
  • 2A large block of metal (larger than a “pig”) made by smelting.

    • ‘He said most of the stock is ingot, whereas more consumers prefer T-bar or sow.’


Old English sugu; related to Dutch zeug, German Sau, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin sus and Greek hus pig.