inch

1 of 3

noun (1)

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
4
a
: 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

inch

2 of 3

verb

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 up Forbes

inch

3 of 3

noun (2)

chiefly Scotland
: island
Phrases
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.

Example Sentences

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.

Word History

Etymology

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

Verb

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.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inch. Accessed 28 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

inch 1 of 2

noun

1
: a unit of length equal to frac::1/36 yard (2.54 centimeters) see measure
2
: a small amount, distance, or degree
won't budge an inch
3
: a small advantage especially from kind treatment
usually used in the phrase give an inch
did not give an inch during negotiations
inch by inch
: very gradually or slowly
within an inch of
: almost to the point of
came within an inch of succeeding

inch

2 of 2

verb

: to move a little bit at a time

Medical Definition

inch

noun

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

More from Merriam-Webster on inch

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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


Words Named After People

  • name tags
  • Namesake of the leotard, Jules Léotard had what profession?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ