1. a line of police, sentinels, military posts, warships, etc., enclosing or guarding an area.
  2. a cord or braid worn for ornament or as a fastening.
  3. a ribbon worn usually diagonally across the breast as a badge of a knightly or honorary order.
  4. Fortification.
    1. a projecting course of stones at the base of a parapet.
    2. the coping of a scarp.
  5. Architecture.
    1. a stringcourse, especially one having little or no projection.
    2. a cut-stone riser on a stepped ramp or the like.
  6. a fruit tree or shrub trained to grow along a support or a series of such supports.

verb (used with object)

  1. to surround or blockade with or as with a cordon (usually followed by off): The police cordoned off the street.


  1. a chain of police, soldiers, ships, etc, stationed around an area
  2. a ribbon worn as insignia of honour or rank
  3. a cord or ribbon worn as an ornament or fastening
  4. Also called: string course, belt course, table architect an ornamental projecting band or continuous moulding along a wall
  5. horticulture a form of fruit tree consisting of a single stem bearing fruiting spurs, produced by cutting back all lateral branches


  1. (tr often foll by off) to put or form a cordon (around); close (off)

mid-15c., “cord or ribbon worn as an ornament,” from Middle French cordon “ribbon,” diminutive of Old French corde “cord” (see cord). Sense of “a line of people or things guarding something” is 1758. Original sense preserved in cordon bleu (1727) “the highest distinction,” literally “blue ribbon,” for the sky-blue ribbon worn by the Knights-grand-cross of the Holy Ghost (highest order of chivalry); extended figuratively to other persons of distinction, especially, jocularly, to a first-rate cook. Cordon sanitaire (1857), from French, a guarded line between infected and uninfected districts.


1560s, “to ornament with a ribbon;” 1891 as “to guard with a cordon;” from cordon (n.). Related: Cordoned; cordoning.

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