a. A spiderweb, especially an old one that is covered in dust.
b. A single thread spun by a spider.
2. Something resembling a spiderweb in gauziness or flimsiness: "An extraordinary number of elegant ladies ... flowed in, heels clicking, diamonds flashing, adjusting tiny cobwebs of priceless lace on immaculate coiffures" (Jane Stevenson).
3. An intricate plot; a snare: caught in a cobweb of espionage and intrigue.
4. cobwebs Confusion; disorder: cobwebs on the brain.
tr.v. cob·webbed, cob·web·bing, cob·webs
To cover with or as if with cobwebs.
[Middle English coppeweb : coppe, spider (short for attercoppe, from Old English āttercoppe : ātor, poison + copp, head) + web, web; see WEB.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.