Kowtow to


      • show excessive respect or obedience
        To act in a submissive manner, often in order to gain favor or approval from someone in a position of authority

      • give in to someone's demands
        To yield to the requests or demands of someone, often out of fear or a desire to avoid conflict

    Examples of Kowtow to

    • The politician kowtowed to the demands of the interest group in order to secure their endorsement.

      The idiom "kowtow to" means to show excessive respect or submission to someone. In this example, the politician is willing to do whatever the interest group asks in order to gain their approval, demonstrating an extreme level of deference.

    • Despite the teacher's requests to quiet down, some students refused to kowtow to authority and continued to talk loudly.

      Here, the students are disobeying the teacher's instructions and refusing to show the expected level of respect, illustrated by the use of "kowtow to authority".

    • The company kowtowed to the demands of the shareholders by increasing dividends.

      This example shows a company submitting to the requests of their shareholders in order to maintain their support and avoid losing financial backing.

    • John kowtowed to his boss's opinion, even though he personally disagreed with it.

      In this example, John is demonstrating a willingness to defer to his superior's judgment, even if it goes against his own beliefs.

    • The newly appointed CEO kowtowed to the demands of the aggressive shareholders by implementing their suggestions immediately.

      The CEO showed excessive respect and submission to the controlling shareholders by quickly carrying out their requested actions, as if bowing deeply (kowtow).

    • Some politicians kowtow to the powerful lobbyists in order to secure financial support for their campaigns.

      These politicians submit themselves to the influential lobbyists by accepting their demands, in order to benefit from their financial backing, as if bowing deeply (kowtow).

    • The immigrant students kowtowed to the strict academic standards of the prestigious university and graduated with honors.

      These students showed significant respect and deference to the rigorous academic expectations of the esteemed university by meeting and exceeding their requirements, as if bowing deeply (kowtow).

    • The company kowtowed to the strict environmental regulation by implementing eco-friendly practices and reducing their carbon footprint.

      This company showed significant regard and compliance to the stringent environmental legislation by adopting sustainable practices and minimizing their environmental impact, as if bowing deeply (kowtow).


    The idiom "kowtow to" is used to describe the act of showing excessive respect or obedience towards someone in a position of power. It can also mean giving in to someone's demands out of fear or a desire to avoid conflict. This phrase is often used to caution against being overly submissive or compliant in order to gain favor or approval.

    The idiom can be used in various contexts, such as in personal relationships, politics, or business. It is often used to advise against compromising one's principles or self-respect in order to appease someone in authority.

    Overall, the idiom "kowtow to" serves as a warning to maintain one's dignity and integrity, and not to give in to unreasonable demands or expectations from others.

    Origin of "Kowtow to"

    The idiom "kowtow to" originates from the Chinese word "koutou," which literally means "knock the head." In ancient China, it was a ritualistic act of deep respect and submission, where a person would kneel and touch their head to the ground in front of a superior. This act was often performed in the presence of the emperor or other high-ranking officials.

    The term "kowtow" was later adopted into English to describe the act of showing excessive respect or obedience, often in a servile or obsequious manner. Over time, it has come to be used figuratively to describe any form of submissive behavior towards someone in authority. The origin of the idiom highlights the cultural significance of respect and obedience in Chinese society and how it has been adapted into English to convey similar meanings of excessive deference and submission.