Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun, often attributive \ˈlīn\

Simple Definition of line

  • : a long narrow mark on a surface

  • : a mark on the ground that shows the edge of the playing area in a sport

  • : an area or border that separates two places

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of line

  1. 1 a :  a length of cord or cord-like material: as (1) :  a comparatively strong slender cord (2) :  clothesline (3) :  a rope used on shipboard b (1) :  a device for catching fish consisting of a cord with hooks and other fishing gear (2) :  scope for activity :  rope c :  a length of material used in measuring and leveling d (1) :  piping for conveying a fluid (as steam) (2) :  a narrow short synthetic tube that is inserted approximately one inch into a vein (as of the arm) to provide temporary intravenous access for the administration of fluid, medication, or nutrients e (1) :  a wire or pair of wires connecting one telegraph or telephone station with another or a whole system of such wires; also :  any circuit in an electronic communication system (2) :  a telephone connection <tried to get a line>; also :  an individual telephone extension <a call on line 2> (3) :  the principal circuits of an electric power system

  2. 2 a (1) :  a horizontal row of written or printed characters; also :  a blank row in lieu of such characters (2) :  a unit in the rhythmic structure of verse formed by the grouping of a number of the smallest units of the rhythm (as metrical feet) (3) :  a distinct segment of a computer program containing a single command or a small number of commands b :  a short letter :  note c plural :  a certificate of marriage d :  the words making up a part in a drama —usually used in plural e :  any of the successive horizontal rows of picture elements on the screen of a cathode-ray tube (as a television screen)

  3. 3 a :  something (as a ridge or seam) that is distinct, elongated, and narrow b :  a narrow crease (as on the face) :  wrinkle c :  the course or direction of something in motion :  route d (1) :  a state of agreement or conformity :  accordance (2) :  a state of order, control, or obedience <wouldn't let them get out of line> e (1) :  a boundary of an area <the state line> (2) :  distinction 2 <the fine line between love and hate> f :  the track and roadbed of a railway g :  an amount of cocaine that is arranged in a line to be inhaled through the nose

  4. 4 a :  a course of conduct, action, or thought; especially :  an official or public position <the party line> b :  a field of activity or interest c :  a glib often persuasive way of talking

  5. 5 a :  limit, restraint b archaic :  position in life :  lot

  6. 6 a (1) :  family, lineage (2) :  a strain produced and maintained especially by selective breeding or biological culture (3) :  a chronological series b :  dispositions made to cover extended military positions and presenting a front to the enemy —usually used in plural c :  a military formation in which the different elements are abreast of each other d :  naval ships arranged in a regular order e (1) :  the combatant forces of an army distinguished from the staff corps and supply services (2) :  the force of a regular navy f (1) :  officers of the navy eligible for command at sea distinguished from officers of the staff (2) :  officers of the army belonging to a combatant branch g :  an arrangement or placement of persons or objects of one kind in an orderly series <a line of trees> <stand on line> <waiting in line>; also :  the persons or objects so positioned <the line moved slowly at the bank> h (1) :  a group of public conveyances plying regularly under one management over a route (2) :  a system of transportation together with its equipment, routes, and appurtenances; also :  the company owning or operating it i :  a succession of musical notes especially considered in melodic phrases j (1) :  an arrangement of operations in manufacturing permitting sequential occurrence on various stages of production (2) :  the personnel of an organization that are responsible for its stated objective k (1) :  the seven players including center, two guards, two tackles, and two ends who in offensive football play line up on or within one foot of the line of scrimmage (2) :  the players who in defensive play line up within one yard of the line of scrimmage l :  a group of three players including a left winger, center, and right winger who play together as a unit in hockey

  7. 7 :  a narrow elongated mark drawn or projected: as a (1) :  a circle of latitude or longitude on a map (2) :  equator b :  a mark (as on a map) recording a boundary, division, or contour c :  any of the horizontal parallel strokes on a music staff on or between which notes are placed — compare space d :  a mark (as by pencil) that forms part of the formal design of a picture distinguished from the shading or color e :  a division on a bridge score dividing the score for bonuses from that for tricks f (1) :  a demarcation of a limit with reference to which the playing of some game or sport is regulated —usually used in combination (2) :  a marked or imaginary line across a playing area (as a football field) parallel to the end line (3) :  line of scrimmage

  8. 8 :  a straight or curved geometric element that is generated by a moving point and that has extension only along the path of the point :  curve

  9. 9 a :  a defining outline :  contour b :  a general plan :  model —usually used in plural

  10. 10 a chiefly British :  pica —used to indicate the size of large type b :  the unit of fineness of halftones expressed as the number of screen lines to the linear inch

  11. 11 :  merchandise or services of the same general class for sale or regularly available

  12. 12 a :  a source of information :  insight b :  betting odds offered by a bookmaker especially on a sporting event

  13. 13 :  a complete game of 10 frames in bowling —called also string

  14. 14 :  line drive


less commonly


play \ˈlī-nē\ adjective

between the lines

  1. 1 :  by implication :  in an indirect way

  2. 2 :  by way of inference

down the line

  1. 1 :  all the way :  fully

  2. 2 :  in the future

in line for

  1. :  due or in a position to receive

on line

  1. :  in or into operation

on the line

  1. 1 :  at great risk <puts his future on the line by backing that policy>

  2. 2 :  on the border between two categories

Examples of line in a sentence

  1. I drew a straight line down the page to separate the two lists.

  2. Cut the paper along the dotted line.

  3. a tennis serve that was over the line

  4. After three hours on the road, they finally crossed the state line.

  5. Their yards were separated by a line of trees.

  6. Everybody had to get in line and wait their turn.

  7. The people were waiting in line.

Origin and Etymology of line

Middle English; partly from Anglo-French lingne, from Latin linea, from feminine of lineus made of flax, from linum flax; partly from Old English līne; akin to Old English līn flax — more at linen

First Known Use: before 12th century




Definition of line



  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to mark or cover with a line or lines <lined paper>

  3. 2 :  to depict with lines :  draw

  4. 3 :  to place or form a line along <pedestrians line the walks>

  5. 4 :  to form into a line or lines :  align <line up troops>

  6. 5 :  to hit (as a baseball) hard and in a usually straight line

  7. intransitive verb
  8. 1 :  to hit a line drive in baseball

  9. 2 :  to come into the correct relative position :  align


First Known Use of line





Definition of line



  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to cover the inner surface of <line a cloak with silk>

  3. 2 :  to put something in the inside of :  fill

  4. 3 :  to serve as the lining of <tapestries lined the walls>

  5. 4 obsolete :  fortify

line one's pockets

  1. :  to take money freely and especially dishonestly

Origin and Etymology of line

Middle English, from line flax, from Old English līn

First Known Use: 14th century

LINE Defined for Kids



noun \ˈlīn\

Definition of line for Students

  1. 1 :  a long thin cord or rope <fishing lines> <Hang your clothes on the line.>

  2. 2 :  a long narrow mark <Draw a line on your paper.>

  3. 3 :  an arrangement of people or things in a row <We waited in line.>

  4. 4 :  a row of letters, words, or musical notes across a page or column

  5. 5 :  the boundary or limit of a place <the town line>

  6. 6 :  family 2 <He comes from a long line of farmers.>

  7. 7 :  a way of behaving or thinking <He took a firm line with his son.>

  8. 8 :  1outline 1, contour <The sailboat has beautiful lines.>

  9. 9 :  an area of activity or interest <What line of work are you in?>

  10. 10 :  the position of military forces who are facing the enemy

  11. 11 :  a pipe carrying a fluid (as steam, water, or oil)

  12. 12 :  an outdoor wire carrying electricity or a telephone signal

  13. 13 lines plural :  the words of a part in a play

  14. 14 :  the path along which something moves or is directed <It's in my line of vision.>

  15. 15 :  the track of a railway

  16. 16 :  agreement 1, harmony <They tried to bring their ideas into line.>

  17. 17 :  a system of transportation <a bus line>

  18. 18 :  the football players whose positions are along the line of scrimmage

  19. 19 :  a geometric element produced by moving a point

  20. 20 :  a plan for making or doing something <I wrote a story along these lines.>




Definition of line for Students



  1. 1 :  to indicate with or draw a long narrow mark

  2. 2 :  to place or be placed in a row along <Shops line the street.>

line up

  1. 1 :  to gather or arrange in a row or rows <The children lined up.>

  2. 2 :  to put into alignment <Make sure the pieces line up.>




Definition of line for Students



  1. :  to cover the inner surface of <line a coat>

Medical Dictionary


noun \ˈlīn\

Medical Definition of line

  1. 1:  something (as a ridge, seam, mark, or streak) that is distinct, elongated, and narrow—see linea

  2. 2:  a strain produced and maintained especially by selective breeding or biological culture

  3. 3:  a narrow short synthetic tube (as of plastic) that is inserted approximately one inch into a vein (as of the arm) to provide temporary intravenous access for the administration of fluid, medication, or nutrients

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up line? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a sculptured or ornamented band

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • bride-of-dracula-in-cat-form-surrounded-by-candles-and-somewhat-bewilderingly-orange-sacks-instead-of-surely-much-cheaper-and-easier-to-find-actual-pumpkins
  • Which is a synonym of phlegmatic?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.