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cockpit a place for holding cockfights; in figurative usage, the place where a contest is fought out. The word is also recorded from the late 16th century used for a theatre, in Shakespeare's Henry V (1599).
The Cockpit was the name of a 17th-century London theatre, built on the site of a cockpit, and was later used for a block of buildings on or near the site of a cockpit built by Henry VII, used from the 17th century as government offices, and from this used informally for ‘the Treasury’ and ‘the Privy Council chambers’.

In the early 18th century the term was in nautical use, denoting an area in the aft lower deck of a man-of-war where the wounded were taken, later coming to mean the ‘pit’ or well in a sailing yacht from which it was steered.
cockpit of Europe a name for Belgium, as a part of Europe on which European conflicts have frequently been fought; the idea is first recorded in the writings of the Anglo-Welsh man of letters James Howell (c.1594–1666).

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cock·pit / ˈkäkˌpit/ • n. 1. a compartment for the pilot and sometimes also the crew in an aircraft or spacecraft. ∎  a similar compartment for the driver in a racing car. ∎  a sunken area in the after deck of a boat providing space for members of the crew. 2. a place where a battle or other conflict takes place: the cockpit of capitalist conflict in Europe. ∎  a place where cockfights are held.

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cockpit pit or enclosure to be used for cock-fighting XVI; (naut.) after part of the orlop deck of a man of war XVIII. f. COCK 1 + PIT.