Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


a cover that the young larvae of some insects make around themselves when they start changing into their adult form

something that keeps you safe, but may stop you from learning to deal with problems

Origin and usage

The noun cocoon, which was first used in English at the end of the 17th century, comes from a French word, cocon, which is derived from ‘coque’ meaning shell.


The term cocoon was originally used to describe the casing that the silkworm spins around itself, later being extended to refer to the casings formed by many insects, from which they emerge in their final form. The meaning was subsequently extended to mean something that keeps someone safe but may prevent them from becoming self-reliant. Cocoon was first used as a verb in the late 19th century to refer to the process of forming a cocoon, subsequently being extended to refer to protecting someone physically or emotionally. Most recently the word has been used, especially in Ireland, in relation to the steps vulnerable people need to take to protect themselves against exposure to coronavirus, a process known as cocooning or shielding.


The Government has published a list of people who should cocoon to protect themselves from COVID-19.
(Irish government website)

We can’t simply ‘cocoon‘ our most vulnerable when they rely on others for care and services.

Related words

buffer, cushion, protector, screen

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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