WordReference Random House Learner's Dictionary of American English © 2015
cot•ter1 /ˈkɑtɚ/USA pronunciation  n. [countable]
  1. Mechanical Engineeringa pin or wedge inserted into an opening to secure something.
  1. Mechanical EngineeringAlso,ˈcot•ter ˌpin. a pin having a split end that is spread after being pushed through a hole to prevent it from working loose.

WordReference Random House Unabridged Dictionary of American English © 2015
cot•ter1  (kotər), 

  1. Mechanical Engineeringa pin, wedge, key, or the like, fitted or driven into an opening to secure something or hold parts together.
  1. Mechanical EngineeringSee cotter pin. 

  1. Mechanical Engineeringto secure with a cotter.
Middle English coter;
akin to late Middle English coterell iron bracket;
of uncertain origin, originally

cot•ter2  (kotər), 
    1. Scottish Terms[Scot.]a person occupying a plot of land and cottage, paid for in services.
    1. cottager (def. 2).
  • Anglo-French cot(i)er; see cot2, -er2
  • Middle English cotere 1175–1225

Collins Concise English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers::

cotter /ˈkɒtə/ n
  1. any part, such as a pin, wedge, key, etc, that is used to secure two other parts so that relative motion between them is prevented
  2. short for cotter pin
Etymology: 14th Century: shortened from cotterel, of unknown origin
cotter /ˈkɒtə/ n

  1. Also called: cottier a villein in late Anglo-Saxon and early Norman times occupying a cottage and land in return for labour
  2. Also called: cottar a peasant occupying a cottage and land in the Scottish Highlands under the same tenure as an Irish cottier
Etymology: 14th Century: from Medieval Latin cotārius, from Middle English cote cot²

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