Abscisic acid (ABA) is an important plant hormone that plays multiple roles in regulating growth and development as well as in stress responses in plants. The NCED gene family includes key genes involved in the process of ABA synthesis. This gene family has been found in many species; however, the function of the NCED gene family in cotton is unclear. Here, a total of 23 NCED genes (designated as GhNCED1 to GhNCED23) were identified in cotton. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that the identified NCED proteins from cotton and Arabidopsis could be classified into 4 subgroups. Conserved motif analysis revealed that the gene structure and motif distribution of proteins within each subgroup were highly conserved. qRT-PCR and ABA content analyses indicated that NCED genes exhibited stage-specific expression patterns at tissue development stages. GhNCED5, GhNCED6 and GhNCED13 expression was similar to the change in ABA content, suggesting that this gene family plays a role in ABA synthesis. These results provide a better understanding of the potential functions of GhNCED genes.