noun (1)
\ ˈinch How to pronounce inch (audio) \

Definition of inch

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : a unit of length equal to ¹/₃₆ yard — see Weights and Measures Table
2 : a small amount, distance, or degree is like cutting a dog's tail off by inches— Milton Friedman
3 inches plural : stature, height
4a : a fall (as of rain or snow) sufficient to cover a surface or to fill a gauge to the depth of one inch
b : 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
5 : a small advantage especially from lenient or compassionate treatment usually used in the phrase give an inch
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


inched; inching; inches

Definition of inch (Entry 2 of 3)

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


noun (2)

Definition of inch (Entry 3 of 3)

chiefly Scotland
: island

Synonyms & Antonyms for inch

Synonyms: Noun (1)

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Noun (1)

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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.

First Known Use of inch

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

History and Etymology for inch

Noun (1)

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

Noun (2)

Middle English (Scots), from Scottish Gaelic innis

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Time Traveler for inch

Time Traveler

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

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Cite this Entry

“Inch.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for inch


\ ˈinch How to pronounce inch (audio) \

Kids Definition of inch

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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


inched; inching

Kids Definition of inch (Entry 2 of 2)

: to move a little bit at a time We inched to the ticket counter.


\ ˈinch How to pronounce inch (audio) \

Medical Definition of inch

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

More from Merriam-Webster on inch

Nglish: Translation of inch for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of inch for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about inch


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