Abstract The chemisorption of CO on Co(0001) and on a polycrystalline specimen has been studied by LEED, Auger spectroscopy, and thermal desorption measurements. Annealing of the polycrystal was found to result in a surface dominated by crystallites of (0001) orientation in the surface plane, along with a few (101̄2) oriented crystallites. CO adsorbs on the clean surface at 300 K with an initial sticking probability of 0.9 and the system follows precursor state kinetics. The saturation coverage under UHV conditions corresponds to a well-ordered (√3 × √3)R30° structure; with P CO >5 × 10 -9 a uniform compression of the adlayer takes place and a (√7 × √7)R19.2° structure begins to form. Models are proposed for these two ordered phases which are in agreement with the observed relative coverage data and the appearance of the corresponding desorption spectra. The desorption enthalpy of CO at low coverages is 103 ± 8 kJ mol -1, and a fairly sharp fall in this enthalpy occurs for coverages > 1 3 . In many respects, the system's behaviour closely resembles that of Ni(111)-CO. Oxygen contamination leads to the appearance of a strongly adsorbed CO state with a desorption enthalpy of ~170 kJ mol -1. This is reminiscent of a strongly adsorbed non-dissociated state of CO on Ru(101̄1) which occurs under similar conditions.