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cotton on

To begin to understand something; to grasp fully; to catch on. Primarily heard in UK. It took me a few moments to cotton on, but I soon realized that they were talking about me.
See also: cotton

be in tall cotton

To be in a time or period of great success or wellbeing; to be doing very well. We were in tall cotton after my wife's late uncle left us his fortune. I hear Jeff's in tall cotton out in New York City.
See also: cotton, tall

be touching cotton

semi-vulgar slang To have a very urgent or desperate need to defecate. (Refers jokingly to one's feces protruding into one's underpants.) Boy, it's a good thing we got home when we did—I was touching cotton on the way here!
See also: cotton, touching

cotton (on)to someone or something

Rur. to begin to like or agree to someone or something quickly. She began to cotton to Fred, despite his country ways. She cottoned onto Jane's way of thinking.
See also: cotton

cotton up to someone

Rur. to try to make friends with someone; to flatter or fawn on someone in hopes of favorable treatment. James set out to cotton up to the parents of his friends. Just watch her cotton up to the teacher!
See also: cotton, up

in high cotton

 and in tall cotton
Rur. to be doing very well; successful. Jim's in high cotton ever since he got that raise. Tom: How's your sister? Mary: She's in high cotton. Just bought a nice new house. We were in tall cotton until the IRS caught up with us.
See also: cotton, high

in low cotton

Rur. depressed. She was in low cotton because her dress got torn. Jed is in low cotton because his favorite hound is dead.
See also: cotton, low

cotton to somebody/something

to like someone or something The public did not cotton to her new CD.
See also: cotton

Bless her/his cotton socks.

  (British & Australian humorous)
something that you say when you want to express affection for someone My little niece - bless her cotton socks - won the school poetry prize this year.
See also: bless, cotton, sock


  (American & Australian informal)
something that you say before a noun to express anger Get your cotton-picking feet off my chair!

wrap somebody up in cotton wool

  (British & Australian)
to protect someone too much without allowing them to be independent enough She wraps that child up in cotton wool as if he's some precious jewel.
See drape in the flag, twist around little finger
See also: cotton, up, wool, wrap

cotton to

1. Take a liking to, get along with, as in This dog doesn't cotton to strangers. Although this verbal phrase comes from the noun for the fabric, the semantic connection between these parts of speech is unclear. [Early 1800s]
2. Also, cotton on to. Come to understand, grasp, as in She didn't really cotton on to what I was saying. [Colloquial; early 1900s]
See also: cotton

cotton onto

To come to understand something: I finally cottoned onto the new method.
See also: cotton

cotton to

1. To take a liking to someone or something: That dog doesn't cotton to strangers.
2. To come to understand something: I finally cottoned to the new computer system.
See also: cotton

cotton up

To attempt to be friendly to someone or something: The teachers all cottoned up to the new principal.
See also: cotton, up


and cotton-pickin’
mod. worthless; damned. (Folksy.) Who is this cotton-picking bigwig pushing us around?



in tall cotton

mod. successful; on easy street. (Folksy.) I won some money at the track, and I’m really in tall cotton.
See also: cotton, tall