bow

1 of 5

verb (1)

bowed; bowing; bows

intransitive verb

1
: to cease from competition or resistance : submit, yield
refusing to bow to the inevitableJohn O'Hara
also : to suffer defeat
bowed to the champion
2
: to bend the head, body, or knee in reverence, submission, or shame
Bow before the king.
bowed her head in shame
3
: to incline the head or body in salutation or assent or to acknowledge applause
bowing to the audience
4
: debut
the play will bow next month

transitive verb

1
: to cause to incline
wind bowing the treetops
2
: to incline especially in respect or submission
bow their heads in prayer
3
: to crush with a heavy burden
whose heavy hand hath bowed you to the grave Shakespeare
4
a
: to express by bending the head, body, or knee : to express by bowing
bowing his appreciation
b
: to usher in or out with a bow (see bow entry 2)

bow

2 of 5

noun (1)

: a bending of the head or body in respect, submission, assent, or salutation
also : a show of respect or submission
smiled and gave a bow

bow

3 of 5

noun (2)

1
a
: something bent into a simple curve or arc
b
2
: a weapon that is used to propel an arrow and that is made of a strip of flexible material (such as wood) with a cord connecting the two ends and holding the strip bent
hunting with bow and arrow
3
: archer
4
a
: a metal ring or loop forming a handle (as of a key)
b
: a knot formed by doubling a ribbon or string into two or more loops
d
: a frame for the lenses of eyeglasses
also : the sidepiece of the frame passing over the ear
5
music
a
: a wooden rod with horsehairs stretched from end to end used in playing an instrument of the viol or violin family
b
: a stroke of such a bow
on the up bow

bow

4 of 5

verb (2)

bowed; bowing; bows

intransitive verb

1
: to bend into a curve
the wall bows a little
2
music : to play a stringed instrument with a bow (see bow entry 3 sense 5a)

transitive verb

1
: to cause to bend into a curve
Years of riding had bowed his legs.
2
music : to play (a stringed instrument) with a bow
bowing the strings

bow

5 of 5

noun (3)

1
nautical : the forward part of a ship
often used in plural
crossing the bows
2
nautical : bowman entry 2

Word History

Etymology

Verb (1) and Noun (1)

Middle English, from Old English būgan; akin to Old High German biogan to bend, Sanskrit bhujati he bends

Noun (2) and Verb (2)

Middle English bowe, from Old English boga; akin to Old English būgan

Noun (3)

Middle English bowe, bowgh, probably from Middle Dutch boech bow, shoulder; akin to Old English bōg bough

First Known Use

Verb (1)

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

Noun (1)

circa 1656, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

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

Verb (2)

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

Noun (3)

1626, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near bow

Cite this Entry

“Bow.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bow. Accessed 7 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

bow

1 of 5 verb
1
: to bend the head, body, or knee in greeting, respect, agreement, or obedience
2
: yield entry 1 sense 5
bow to authority
3
: bend entry 1 sense 6
bowed with age
4
: to express by bowing
bow one's thanks

bow

2 of 5 noun
: a bending of the head or body expressing respect, agreement, obedience, or greeting

bow

3 of 5 noun
1
2
: a weapon used for shooting arrows that is usually made of a strip of wood bent by a cord connecting the two ends
3
: something that is curved like a bow
4
: a wooden rod with horsehairs stretched from end to end used for playing a violin or similar instrument
5
: a knot made with two or more loops
tie the ribbon in a bow

bow

4 of 5 verb
1
: to bend into a curve
2
: to play a stringed instrument with a bow

bow

5 of 5 noun
: the forward part of a ship

Medical Definition

bow

noun
: a frame for the lenses of eyeglasses
also : the curved sidepiece of the frame passing over the ear

Geographical Definition

Bow

geographical name

river 315 miles (507 kilometers) long in southwestern Alberta, Canada, rising in Banff National Park

More from Merriam-Webster on bow

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


Challenging Words You Should Know

  • hedgehog reading a book
  • Often used to describe “the march of time,” what does inexorable mean?
Spell It

Hear a word and type it out. How many can you get right?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Solve today's spelling word game by finding as many words as you can with using just 7 letters. Longer words score more points.

Can you make 12 words with 7 letters?

PLAY