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  1. Architecture.
    1. a curved masonry construction for spanning an opening, consisting of a number of wedgelike stones, bricks, or the like, set with the narrower side toward the opening in such a way that forces on the arch are transmitted as vertical or oblique stresses on either side of the opening.
    2. an upwardly curved construction, as of steel or timber functioning in the manner of a masonry arch.
    3. a doorway, gateway, etc., having a curved head; an archway.
    4. the curved head of an opening, as a doorway.
  2. any overhead curvature resembling an arch.
  3. something bowed or curved; any bowlike part: the arch of the foot.
  4. a device inserted in or built into shoes for supporting the arch of the foot.
  5. a dam construction having the form of a barrel vault running vertically with its convex face toward the impounded water.
  6. Glassmaking.
    1. a chamber or opening in a glassmaking furnace.
    2. pot arch.
verb (used with object)
  1. to cover with a vault, or span with an arch: the rude bridge that arched the flood.
  2. to throw or make into the shape of an arch or vault; curve: The horse arched its neck.
verb (used without object)
  1. to form an arch: elms arching over the road.
  2. Nautical. hog(def 14).

Origin of arch1

1250–1300; Middle English arch(e) < Old French arche < Vulgar Latin *arca, feminine variant of Latin arcus arc


  1. playfully roguish or mischievous: an arch smile.
  2. cunning; crafty; sly.
  1. Obsolete. a person who is preeminent; a chief.

Origin of arch2

independent use of arch-1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for arches

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • A loud noise which reverberated under the arches made her tremble.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

  • Saxon arches separating the nave from the aisles and chancel are plain.

    English Villages

    P. H. Ditchfield

  • The doorway of Malmesbury Church has eight arches, recessed one within the other.

    English Villages

    P. H. Ditchfield

  • These arches are supported by one or more shafts, which are sometimes carved.

    English Villages

    P. H. Ditchfield

  • He would have all the arches as light as laughter and as candid as logic.

    Alarms and Discursions

    G. K. Chesterton

British Dictionary definitions for arches


pl n
  1. Court of Arches Church of England the court of appeal of the Province of Canterbury, formerly held under the arches of Bow Church


  1. a curved structure, normally in the vertical plane, that spans an opening
  2. Also called: archway a structure in the form of an arch that serves as a gateway
  3. something curved like an arch
    1. any of various parts or structures of the body having a curved or archlike outline, such as the transverse portion of the aorta (arch of the aorta) or the raised bony vault formed by the tarsal and metatarsal bones (arch of the foot)
    2. one of the basic patterns of the human fingerprint, formed by several curved ridges one above the otherCompare loop 1 (def. 10a), whorl (def. 3)
  1. (tr) to span (an opening) with an arch
  2. to form or cause to form an arch or a curve resembling that of an archthe cat arched its back
  3. (tr) to span or extend overthe bridge arched the flooded stream

Word Origin

C14: from Old French arche, from Vulgar Latin arca (unattested), from Latin arcus bow, arc


  1. (prenominal) chief; principal; leadinghis arch rival
  2. (prenominal) very experienced; expertan arch criminal
  3. knowing or superior
  4. playfully or affectedly roguish or mischievous
Derived Formsarchly, adverbarchness, noun

Word Origin

C16: independent use of arch-
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for arches



c.1300, from Old French arche "arch of a bridge" (12c.), from Latin arcus "a bow" (see arc). Replaced native bow (n.1). Originally architectural in English; transferred by early 15c. to anything having this form (eyebrows, etc.).



1540s, "chief, principal," from prefix arch-; used in 12c. archangel, etc., but extended to so many derogatory uses (arch-rogue, arch-knave, etc.) that by mid-17c. it acquired a meaning of "roguish, mischievous," since softened to "saucy." Also found in archwife (late 14c.), variously defined as "a wife of a superior order" or "a dominating woman, virago."



early 14c., "to form an arch" (implied in arched); c.1400, "to furnish with an arch," from arch (n.). Related: Arching.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

arches in Medicine


([object Object])
  1. An organ or structure having a curved or bowlike appearance, especially either of two arched sections of the bony structure of the foot.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

arches in Culture


In architecture, a curved or pointed opening that spans a doorway, window, or other space.


The form of arch used in building often serves to distinguish styles of architecture from one another. For example, Romanesque architecture usually employs a round arch, and Gothic architecture, a pointed arch.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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