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  1. a leafy shelter or recess; arbor.
  2. a rustic dwelling; cottage.
  3. a lady's boudoir in a medieval castle.
verb (used with object)
  1. to enclose in or as in a bower; embower.

Origin of bower1

before 900; Middle English bour, Old English būr chamber; cognate with Old Norse būr pantry, German Bauer birdcage; akin to neighbor
Related formsbow·er·like, adjective


noun Nautical.
  1. an anchor carried at a ship's bow.

Origin of bower2

First recorded in 1645–55; bow3 + -er1
Also called bower anchor.


  1. a person or thing that bows or bends.

Origin of bower3

First recorded in 1590–1600; bow1 + -er1


noun Music.
  1. a musician, as a violinist, who performs with a bow on a stringed instrument.

Origin of bower4

late Middle English word dating back to 1400–50; see origin at bow2, -er1


  1. a flexible strip of wood or other material, bent by a string stretched between its ends, for shooting arrows: He drew the bow and sent the arrow to its target.
  2. an instrument resembling this, used for various purposes, as rotating a drill or spindle, or loosening entangled or matted fibers.
  3. a bend or curve.
  4. Also called bowknot. a looped knot composed of two or more loops and two ends, as for tying together the ends of a ribbon or string.
  5. any separate piece of looped, knotted, or shaped gathering of ribbon, cloth, paper, etc., used as a decoration, as on a package, dress, or the like.
  6. a long rod, originally curved but now nearly straight, with horsehairs stretched from one end to the other, used for playing on a musical instrument of the violin and viol families.
  7. a single movement of such a device over the strings of a violin, viol, or the like.
  8. bow tie.
  9. something curved or arc-shaped.
  10. a saddlebow.
  11. an archer; bowman: He is the best bow in the county.
  12. temple2(def 3).
  13. a U-shaped piece for placing under an animal's neck to hold a yoke.
  14. Building Trades. a flexible rod used for laying out large curves.
  15. the part of a key grasped by the fingers.
  16. the loop on the stem of a watch by which the watch is attached to a chain or the like.
  17. a rainbow.
  1. curved outward at the center; bent: bow legs.
verb (used with or without object)
  1. to bend into the form of a bow; curve.
  2. Music. to perform by means of a bow upon a stringed instrument.
  3. Textiles Obsolete. to loosen by passing a vibrating bow among entangled fibers.

Origin of bow2

before 1000; Middle English bowe (noun), Old English boga; cognate with Dutch boog, German Bogen, Old Norse bogi; akin to bow1
Related formsbowed·ness, nounbow·less, adjectivebow·like, adjective
Can be confusedbode bowed


  1. Nautical, Aeronautics.
    1. the forward end of a vessel or airship.
    2. either side of this forward end, especially with reference to the direction of a distant object: a mooring two points off the port bow.
  2. bows, Nautical. the exterior of the forward end of a vessel, especially one in which the hull slopes back on both sides of the stem.
  3. the foremost oar in rowing a boat.
  4. Also called bowman, bow oar. the person who pulls that oar.
  1. of or relating to the bow of a ship.
  1. bows on, (of a ship) with the bow foremost: The vessel approached us bows on.
  2. bows under, (of a ship) shipping water at the bow: The ship was bows under during most of the storm.
  3. on the bow, Nautical. within 45° to the heading of the vessel.

Origin of bow3

1620–30; < Low German boog (noun) or Dutch boeg or Danish bov; see bough
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for bower


  1. a shady leafy shelter or recess, as in a wood or garden; arbour
  2. literary a lady's bedroom or apartments, esp in a medieval castle; boudoir
  3. literary a country cottage, esp one regarded as charming or picturesque
Derived Formsbowery, adjective

Word Origin

Old English būr dwelling; related to Old Norse būr pantry, Old High German būr dwelling


  1. nautical a vessel's bow anchor

Word Origin

C18: from bow ³ + -er 1


  1. a jack in euchre and similar card games

Word Origin

C19: from German Bauer peasant, jack (in cards)


  1. to lower (one's head) or bend (one's knee or body) as a sign of respect, greeting, assent, or shame
  2. to bend or cause to bend; incline downwards
  3. (intr ; usually foll by to or before) to comply or acceptbow to the inevitable
  4. (tr ; foll by in, out, to etc) to usher (someone) into or out of a place with bows and deferencethe manager bowed us to our car
  5. (tr; usually foll by down) to bring (a person, nation, etc) to a state of submission
  6. bow and scrape to behave in an excessively deferential or obsequious way
  1. a lowering or inclination of the head or body as a mark of respect, greeting, or assent
  2. take a bow to acknowledge or receive applause or praise
See also bow out

Word Origin

Old English būgan, related to Old Norse bjūgr bent, Old High German biogan to bend, Dutch buigen


  1. a weapon for shooting arrows, consisting of an arch of flexible wood, plastic, metal, etc bent by a string (bowstring) fastened at each endSee also crossbow
    1. a long slightly curved stick across which are stretched strands of horsehair, used for playing the strings of a violin, viola, cello, or related instrument
    2. a stroke with such a stick
    1. a decorative interlacing of ribbon or other fabrics, usually having two loops and two loose ends
    2. the knot forming such an interlacing; bowknot
    1. something that is curved, bent, or arched
    2. (in combination)rainbow; oxbow; saddlebow
  2. a person who uses a bow and arrow; archer
  3. US
    1. a frame of a pair of spectacles
    2. a sidepiece of the frame of a pair of spectacles that curls round behind the ear
  4. a metal ring forming the handle of a pair of scissors or of a large old-fashioned key
  5. architect part of a building curved in the form of a bowSee also bow window
  1. to form or cause to form a curve or curves
  2. to make strokes of a bow across (violin strings)

Word Origin

Old English boga arch, bow; related to Old Norse bogi a bow, Old High German bogo, Old Irish bocc, and bow 1


  1. mainly nautical
    1. (often plural)the forward end or part of a vessel
    2. (as modifier)the bow mooring line
  2. rowing short for bowman 2
  3. on the port bow nautical within 45 degrees to the port of straight ahead
  4. on the starboard bow nautical within 45 degrees to the starboard of straight ahead
  5. a shot across someone's bows informal a warning

Word Origin

C15: probably from Low German boog; related to Dutch boeg, Danish bov ship's bow, shoulder; see bough


  1. Clara, known as the It Girl . 1905–65, US film actress, noted for her vivacity and sex appeal
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 bower


Old English bur "room, hut, dwelling, chamber," from Proto-Germanic *buraz (cf. Old Norse bur "chamber," Swedish bur "cage," Old High German bur "dwelling, chamber," German Bauer "birdcage"), from *bu- "to dwell," from PIE root *bheue- "to be, exist, dwell" (see be). Modern spelling developed after mid-14c. Sense of "leafy arbor" (place closed in by trees) is first attested 1520s. Hence, too, Australia's bower-bird (1847).



Old English bugan "to bend, to bow down, to bend the body in condescension," also "to turn back" (class II strong verb; past tense beag, past participle bogen), from Proto-Germanic *bugon (cf. Dutch buigen, Middle Low German bugen, Old High German biogan, German biegen, Gothic biugan "to bend," Old Norse boginn "bent"), from *beugen, from PIE root *bheug- (3) "to bend," with derivatives referring to bent, pliable, or curved objects (cf. Sanskrit bhujati "bends, thrusts aside;" Old High German boug, Old English beag "a ring"). The noun in this sense is first recorded 1650s. Related: Bowed; bowing. Bow out "withdraw" is from 1942.



weapon for shooting arrows, Old English boga "archery bow, arch, rainbow," from Proto-Germanic *bugon (cf. Old Norse bogi, Old Frisian boga, Dutch boog, German Bogen "bow;" see bow (v.)). The sense of "a looped knot" is from 1540s. The musician's bow (1570s) formerly was curved like the archer's. Bowlegged is attested from 1550s.



"front of a ship," mid-14c., from Old Norse bogr or Middle Dutch boech "bow of a ship," literally "shoulder (of an animal)," the connecting notion being "the shoulders of the ship." See bough.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with bower


In addition to the idioms beginning with bow

also see:

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.