1 of 3

noun (1)

: a unit of length equal to ¹/₃₆ yard see Weights and Measures Table
: a small amount, distance, or degree
is like cutting a dog's tail off by inchesMilton Friedman
inches plural : stature, height
: a fall (as of rain or snow) sufficient to cover a surface or to fill a gauge to the depth of one inch
: a degree of atmospheric or other pressure sufficient to balance the weight of a column of liquid (such as mercury) one inch high in a barometer or manometer
: a small advantage especially from lenient or compassionate treatment
usually used in the phrase give an inch


2 of 3


inched; inching; inches

intransitive verb

: to move by small degrees : progress slowly
the long line of people inching up the stairs

transitive verb

: to cause to move slowly
sooner or later they begin inching prices back upForbes


3 of 3

noun (2)

chiefly Scotland
: island
every inch
: to the utmost degree
looks every inch a winner
inch by inch
: very gradually or slowly
within an inch of
: almost to the point of
came within an inch of succeeding

Did you know?

The ancient Romans used a system of weights and measures based on units divided into 12 parts. Thus the Latin uncia, meaning “a 12th part,” designated the 12th part of a foot. From this is derived Old English ince or ynce and modern English inch. The Roman pound was also divided into 12 parts, similarly designated by the word uncia. In this sense uncia followed a different path and became Middle English unce or ounce, which was the 12th part of a pound in the troy system. In the avoirdupois system, which is more widely used, the pound is larger and equals 16 ounces. The English noun inch dates to before the 12th century; the verb meaning “to move very slowly” does not appear until around 1600.

Examples of inch in a Sentence

Verb We inched along in heavy traffic. As she neared the finish line, she inched ahead of the other racers. Gas prices are inching up again. I inched the car into the garage.
Recent Examples on the Web
Statewide precipitation is 102% of average for the date, with more than 13 inches falling since the start of the water year on Oct. 1, according to state data. Hayley Smith, Los Angeles Times, 10 Feb. 2024 Each bean is about one-fifth of an inch long and grows from the plant in thin, hairy pods that develop from yellow (or sometimes purplish) flowers resembling orchids. Wei Tchou, New York Times, 9 Feb. 2024 One good YouTube video shows how to apply a lightweight topping mix using a paint roller, followed by passes with a drywall trowel that is maybe 10 to 14 inches wide. Jeanne Huber, Washington Post, 9 Feb. 2024 The toothy fish weighed in at 18.6 pounds and was 54.75 inches long, officials said. Makiya Seminera, Miami Herald, 9 Feb. 2024 Compare that to the period from October 2021 to March 2022, during a La Nina year, when the area recorded a measly 9.08 inches. David Montesino, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 9 Feb. 2024 According to Guinness World Records, the highest unassisted jump by a dog is 75.5 inches or about 3 inches over 6 feet. Kelli Bender, Peoplemag, 9 Feb. 2024 California king beds need comforters that are 107 to 110 inches wide and 96 to 98 inches long. Andrea Wurzburger, Better Homes & Gardens, 29 Jan. 2024 The most snow Chicago has ever received in one season was 89.7 inches during 1978-79. Kori Rumore, Chicago Tribune, 29 Jan. 2024
Lincoln-Way East and Bloom inch upward in rankings topped by Marian Catholic, while Illinois recruit Hayven Smith is the player of the week. Gregg Voss, Chicago Tribune, 31 Jan. 2024 After years of preparation, one of Boise’s largest construction projects is finally inching forward after workers reduced an iconic downtown store to rubble. Nick Rosenberger, Idaho Statesman, 29 Jan. 2024 The Timothée Chalamet musical is inching closer to the $200 million mark in North America and should pass it before its run concludes. J. Kim Murphy, Variety, 27 Jan. 2024 In a move aimed at inching toward profitability, the startup also occasionally unloaded more scooters onto a city’s streets than its agreement permitted. Jason Del Rey, Fortune, 25 Jan. 2024 Yet while Congress and many states have seen steady growth in numbers of female lawmakers over the years since then, much of the Southeast has stagnated or barely inched forward. Jennifer Berry Hawes, ProPublica, 11 Jan. 2024 The new funds will inch the US towards Biden’s ultimate goal of 500,000 EV chargers nationwide by 2030 and help put to rest some riders’ fears of running out of juice mid journey. Popular Science, 11 Jan. 2024 That would be a sign that the Fed is inching closer to cutting rates. Bryan Mena, CNN, 30 Jan. 2024 Both indexes inched upward in early trading on Thursday in response to the GDP data. Max Zahn, ABC News, 25 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'inch.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun (1)

Middle English, from Old English ynce, from Latin uncia — more at ounce

Noun (2)

Middle English (Scots), from Scottish Gaelic innis

First Known Use

Noun (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1599, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

Noun (2)

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of inch was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near inch

Cite this Entry

“Inch.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
: a unit of length equal to ¹⁄₃₆ yard (2.54 centimeters) see measure
: a small amount, distance, or degree
won't budge an inch
: a small advantage especially from kind treatment
usually used in the phrase give an inch
did not give an inch during negotiations


2 of 2 verb
: to move a little bit at a time


Old English ynce "inch," from Latin uncia "a 12th part, ounce," from unus "one" — related to ounce, unite see Word History at ounce

Medical Definition


: a unit of length equal to ¹/₃₆ yard or 2.54 centimeters

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