Various Definitions of COCK or COX and their variants  

These were taken from an undated "Dictionary of Phrase and Fable" by The Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL. D.

This edition was the twentieth, probably edited and revised towards the end of the 19th century.

1. COCK

Mahomet found in the first heaven a cock of such enormous size, that its crest touched the second heaven. The crowing of this celestial bird arouses every living creature from sleep except man. The Moslem doctors say that Allah lends a willing ear to him who reads the Koran, to him who prays for pardon, and to the cock whose chant is divine melody. When the cock ceases to crow, the day of judgement will be to hand.

2. COCK

Dedicated to Apollo, the sun-god, because it gives notice of the rising of the sun. It was dedicated to Mercury, because it summons men to business by its crowing.

3. A COCK ON CHURCH SPIRES

This is to remind men not to deny their lord, as Peter did, but when the crew he "Went out and wept bitterly." Peter Le Neve affirms that a cock was the warlike ensign of the Goths, and therefore used in Gothic churches for ornament.

4. BY COCK AND PIE, SIR, YOU SHALL NOT AWAY TO-NIGHT ("2 Henry IV.," v. 1)

We meet with "Cock's Bones" - "Cock's Passion" Etc; where we can have no doubt that the word is a minced oath, and stands for the sacred name which should never be taken in vain. The 'Pie' is the table or rule in the old Roman offices, showing how to find out the services for each day, called by the Greeks pi'nax an index. The latter part of the oath is equivalent to "The Mass Book."

5. COCK OF THE NORTH

The Duke of Gordon. So called on a monument erected to his honour at Fochabers, in Aberdeenshire. (died 1836)

6. COCKS

The French are so called from a pun made in the reign of Nero, against whom the Gauls, under Julius Vindex, conspired. It was wittingly said that the emperor would be disturbed by the crowing of a Gallus (Gaul or Cock). The pleasantry took, and, as there were certain marks of resemblance between the two, the nickname became perpetuated.

7. COCK OF THE WALK

The dominant bully or master spirit. A public-house sign, meaning draught and bottled ale may be had on the premises. The "Cock" here means the tap. It does not mean "The Cork and Bottle" - "Coq en bataille?

8. COCK AND BULL STORY

A corruption of a concocted and bully story. The catch-pennies hawked about the streets are still called Cocks - i.e., concocted things. Bully is the Danish Bullen (exaggerated), our bull-rush (an exaggerated rush), Bull-Frog etc,. Another etymology may be suggested: The idol Nergal was the most common idol of the ancient Phoenicians, Indians and Persians, and Nergal means A Dung-hill Cock. The Egyptian bull is equally notorious under the name of Osiris. A Cock-and-Bull Story may therefore mean a myth, in reference to the mythological fables of Nergal and Osiris. A third suggestion refers to fables, where dumb animals are made to speak and act like human beings. The French equivalent are Fare un coq à l'âne and Un conte de ma mère l'oie (A mother goose tale)

9. COCK A-HOOP or COCK A-HOUP

Te sit cock a-houp. Boastful, defiant, like a game-cock with his houpe or crest erect. (French, Coq à huppe.)

10. COCK - BOAT OR COCKLE BOAT   

A small boat made of a wicker frame, and covered with leather or oil-cloth. The Welsh fishers used to carry them on their backs. (Welsh - Cwrwgle A Coracle; French - Cochè, A Passage Boat; Irish - Coca; Italian - Cocca; Latin - Cochlea; Greek - Kocklos A Cockle.)

11. COCK-CROW

The Hebrews divided the night into four watches: 1. The "Beginning of The Watches" or "Even" (Lam.ij. 19); 2. "The Middle Watch" or "Midnight" (Judg. vii. 19);  3. "The Cock-Crowing"; 4. "The Morning Watch" or "Dawning" (Exod. xiv. 24). - "Ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning - Mark xiii.35.

12. APPARITIONS VANISH AT COCK-CROW

This is a Christian superstition, the cock being the watch-bird placed on church spires, and therefore sacred. - "The morning cock crew loud, And at the sound it (The Ghost) shrunk in haste away, And vanished from our sight." - (Shakespeare - "Hamlet," i.2.

13. COCK-FIGHTING

Introduced into Britain by the Romans, was a favourite sport both with the Greeks and Romans alike.

14. COCK LANE GHOST - (See Stories)

15. COCK-PIT

The judicial committee of the privy council is so called, because the council room is built on the old cock fighting pit of Whitehall Palace. "Great consultations at the cockpit about battles, duels, victories and what not." From "Poor Robin's Almanack", 1730

16. COCK SURE OR COCKY SURE

Means pertly confident. We call a self-confident, overbearing prig, a cocky fellow, from the barnyard despot; but Shakespeare employs the phrase in the sense of "Sure as the cock of a firelock." - "We steal as in a castle, cock-sure." Shakespeare, "1 Henry IV," ii. 1.

17. COCKADA

The men servants of the military wear a small black cockade on their hat, the Hanoverian Badge. The Stuart cockade was white. At the battle of Sherra-Nuir, in the reign of George I, the English soldiers wore a black rosette in their hats. In the song of Sherra.Muir, the English soldiers are called "The Red-coat lads wi' black cockades." The word cockade is the "Aid of The Cock," the thing that helps to cock the military hat. Subsequently, loops, laces and ribbons were used for the purpose as well as rosettes.  Black enters into all the German cockades: thus The Austrian is Black & Yellow; The Prussian is Black & White; The Hanoverian is all Black; The Belgian is Black, Yellow & Red. Before the revolution the French was White.

18. TO MOUNT THE COCKADE

To become a soldier. From time immemorial the partisans of different leaders have adopted some emblem to show their party; in 1767 an authoritative regulation determined that every regular soldier should wear a white cockade, and in 1782 the badge was restricted to the military. The phrase given above is common both to England and France.

19. COCKAIGNE (Land of)

An imaginary land of idleness and luxury. The subject of a burlesque, probably "The earliest specimen of English poetry which we possess."  London in general is so-called, but Boileau applies the phrase to Paris. [See also Cockney]

20. COCKATRICE

A monster with the wings of a fowl, tail of a dragon and the head of a cock. So called because it was said to be produced from a cock's egg hatched by a serpent. According to legend, the very look of this monster would cause instant death. In consequence of the crest with which the head is crowned, the creature is called a basilisk, from the Greek "basiliskos" (A little King). Isaiah says, "The weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice's den" (xi.8), to signify that the most noxious animal should not hurt the most feeble of God's creatures. Figuratively, it means an insidious, treacherous person, bent on mischief. "They will kill one another by the look, like cockatrices." (Shakespeare, "Twelfth Night," iii.4.

21. COCKER

"According to Cocker or All right according to Cocker." Cocker published an arithmetic in the reign of Charles II., which was very popular. The phrase was popularised by Murphy in his farce called "The Apprentice"

22. COCKLES

"To cry Cockles." To be hanged; from the gurgling noise made in strangulation.

23. COCKLE HAT

A pilgrim's hat, Warburton says, as the chief places of devotion were beyond sea, or on the coasts, pilgrims used to put cockles shells upon their hats, to indicate that they were pilgrims. Cockles are symbols of St. James, patron saint of Spain. "An how shall I your true love know; From many another one? Oh, by his cockle hat and staff; And by his sandal shoon." (Beaumont & Fletcher - "The Friar of Orders Grey."

24. COCKLE SHELLS

Favourite tokens worn by pilgrims in their hats. The polished side of the shell was scratched with some rude drawing of the "Blessed Virgin," the crucifixion or some other subject connected with the pilgrimage. Being blessed by the priest, they were considered amulets against spiritual foes.

25. COCKNEY

Commonly accepted as a Londoner who is born within the sound of the bells of Bow Church and therefore entitled to be considered as being truly such. Camden says the Thames was once called the Cockney, and therefore a Cockney means simply one who lives on the banks the Thames. Saxon, coc, -

"Anything that shoots out" - "A spout." Wedgwood suggest "Cocker"

To Fondle, and says a Cockerney or Cockney is one pampered by city indulgence, in contradistinction to rustics hardened by outdoor work.

(Dutch, "Kokeln," to pamper; French, "Coqueliner," to dangle.) Chambers in his journal, derives the word from a French poem of the thirteenth century, called "The Land of Cocagne," where the houses were made of barley-sugar and cakes, the streets paved with pastry, and the shops supplied goods without requiring money in payment.

The French, at a very early period, called the English "Cocagne Men" i.e., Bons-Vivants (Beef and Pudding Men) -

"Cry to it, uncle as the Cockney did to the eels, when she put them into the paste alive." - "Shakespeare," Leare, ii.4.

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26. COCKSWAIN or COXSWAIN

The swain or servant of the cock or boat, together with its crew. (Saxon, Swan or Swain - a youth or servant and cock - a boat.

 

      

Page Updated: - 05/04/2016