a. A group or band of people.
b. A companion or associate.
c. A generational group as defined in demographics, statistics, or market research: “The cohort of people aged 30 to 39 ... were more conservative” (American Demographics).
a. One of the 10 divisions of a Roman legion, consisting of 300 to 600 men.
b. A group of soldiers.
[Middle English, from Old French cohorte, from Latin cohors, cohort-; see gher-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: The English word cohort comes from the Latin word cohors, which meant “an enclosed area” or “a pen or courtyard enclosing a group of cattle or poultry.” By extension, the word could refer to any group in general and in particular to a company of soldiers or a troop of cavalry in the army of ancient Rome. The group of men forming the bodyguard of a Roman general or the retinue of a provincial governor was also called a cohors. Because of this history, some people insist that the English word cohort should be used to refer only to a group of people and never to an individual person. But the use of cohort in reference to individuals is common, especially in the plural, and enjoys some acceptance; in our 2017 ballot, 52 percent of the Usage Panel accepted the sentence The cashiered dictator and his cohorts have all written their memoirs. The traditional usage referring to a group enjoys stronger approval: 69 percent accepted The gangster walked into the room surrounded by his cohort, and 84 percent accepted the sentence Like many in her cohort, she was never interested in kids when she was young, which uses the word in a more specialized sociological or demographic context.
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.