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[inch] /ɪntʃ/
a unit of length, 1/12 (0.0833) foot, equivalent to 2.54 centimeters.
a very small amount of anything; narrow margin:
to win by an inch; to avert disaster by an inch.
verb (used with or without object)
to move by inches or small degrees:
We inched our way along the road.
by inches,
  1. narrowly; by a narrow margin:
    escaped by inches.
  2. Also, inch by inch. by small degrees or stages; gradually:
    The miners worked their way through the narrow shaft inch by inch.
every inch, in every respect; completely:
That horse is every inch a thoroughbred.
within an inch of, nearly; close to:
He came within an inch of getting killed in the crash.
Origin of inch1
before 1000; Middle English; Old English ynce < Latin uncia twelfth part, inch, ounce. See ounce1


[inch] /ɪntʃ/
noun, Scot.
a small island near the seacoast.
1375-1425; late Middle English < Scots Gaelic innse, genitive of innis island, Old Irish inis, cognate with Welsh ynys Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for inch
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • We had to buy water at the same price, one dollar an inch, or four dollars a day.

    A Trip to California in 1853 Washington Bailey
  • "There's not an inch on my body that isn't black and blue," she said weakly.

    Still Jim Honor Willsie Morrow
  • The ice is half an inch thick when you come up, and seals the hole completely, save immediately about the bodies of the birds.

    Wild Life Near Home Dallas Lore Sharp
  • They are fishermen and wreckers, and know every inch of bottom all along the reefs.

    Up the River Oliver Optic
  • The tilting ring, suspended from the top of the arch, was not more than an inch in diameter.

British Dictionary definitions for inch


a unit of length equal to one twelfth of a foot or 0.0254 metre
  1. an amount of precipitation that would cover a surface with water one inch deep: five inches of rain fell in January
  2. a unit of pressure equal to a mercury column one inch high in a barometer
a very small distance, degree, or amount
every inch, in every way; completely: he was every inch an aristocrat
inch by inch, gradually; little by little
within an inch of, very close to
to move or be moved very slowly or in very small steps: the car inched forward
(transitive) foll by out. to defeat (someone) by a very small margin
Word Origin
Old English ynce, from Latin uncia twelfth part; see ounce1


(Scot & Irish) a small island
Word Origin
C15: from Gaelic innis island; compare Welsh ynys
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
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Word Origin and History for inch

"linear measure, one-twelfth of a foot," late Old English ynce, Middle English unche (current spelling c.1300), from Latin uncia "a twelfth part," from root of unus "one" (see one). An early borrowing from Latin, not found in any other Germanic language. Transferred and figurative sense of "a very small amount" is attested from mid-14c. For phrase give him an inch ... see ell.

"small Scottish island," early 15c., from Gaelic innis (genitive innse) "island, land by a river," from Celtic *inissi (cf. Old Irish inis, Welsh ynys, Breton enez).


"move little by little," 1590s, from inch (n.1). Related: Inched; inching.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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inch in Science
A unit of length in the US Customary System equal to 1/12 of a foot (2.54 centimeters). See Table at measurement.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Idioms and Phrases with inch
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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