[ ahrch ]
/ ɑrtʃ /
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verb (used with object)
to cover with a vault, or span with an arch: the rude bridge that arched the flood.
to throw or make into the shape of an arch or vault; curve: The horse arched its neck.
verb (used without object)
to form an arch: elms arching over the road.
Nautical. hog (def. 14).
Should you take this quiz on “shall” versus “should”? It should prove to be a quick challenge!
Question 1 of 6
Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?

Origin of arch

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English arch(e), from Old French arche, from Vulgar Latin arca (unrecorded), feminine variant of Latin arcus arc

Other definitions for arch (2 of 7)

[ ahrch ]
/ ɑrtʃ /

playfully roguish or mischievous: an arch smile.
Obsolete. a person who is preeminent; a chief.

Origin of arch

First recorded in 1680–90; independent use of arch-1

Other definitions for arch (3 of 7)


a combining form that represents the outcome of archi- in words borrowed through Latin from Greek in the Old English period; it subsequently became a productive form added to nouns of any origin, which thus denote individuals or institutions directing or having authority over others of their class (archbishop; archdiocese; archpriest). More recently, arch-1 has developed the senses “principal” (archenemy; archrival) or “prototypical” and thus exemplary or extreme (archconservative); nouns so formed are almost always pejorative.

Origin of arch-

Middle English; Old English arce-, ærce-, erce- (>Old Norse erki-) <Latin archi-<Greek (see archi-); but Dutch aarts-,Middle Low German erse-,Middle High German, German Erz-<Medieval Latin arci-, and Gothic ark- directly <Greek. Cf. archangel

Other definitions for arch (4 of 7)


variant of archi- before a vowel: archangel; archenteron.

Other definitions for arch (5 of 7)


a combining form meaning “chief, leader, ruler,” used in the formation of compound words: monarch; matriarch; heresiarch.

Origin of -arch

<Greek -archos or -archēs, as comb. forms of árchos leader; cf. archi-

Other definitions for arch (6 of 7)



Other definitions for arch (7 of 7)


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does -arch mean?

The combining form -arch is used like a suffix meaning “chief, leader, or ruler.” It is often used in technical terms, especially in sociology.

The form -arch comes from Greek árchos, meaning “leader,” and shares a root with the combining form archi-, meaning “first, principal.” Discover why at our entry for archi-.

What are variants of -arch?

While -arch doesn’t have any variants, it is related to the form -archy, as in matriarchy. Want to know more? Read our Words That Use -archy article.

Examples of -arch

An example of a word you may have encountered that features -arch is matriarch, “the female head of a family or tribal line.”

Matri- is a form that means “mother,” from Latin māter, while the -arch portion of the word means “leader.” Matriarch literally translates to “mother-leader.”

What are some words that use the equivalent of the combining form -arch in Greek?

What are some other forms that -arch may be commonly confused with?

Not every word that ends with the exact letters -arch, such as diarch, is necessarily using the combining form -arch to denote “leader.” Learn about the botanical term diarch at our entry for the word.

Break it down!

The combining form mon- means “alone, single.” With this in mind, what does monarch literally mean?

How to use arch in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for arch (1 of 5)

/ (ɑːtʃ) /

a curved structure, normally in the vertical plane, that spans an opening
Also called: archway a structure in the form of an arch that serves as a gateway
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)

Word Origin for arch

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

British Dictionary definitions for arch (2 of 5)

/ (ɑːtʃ) /

(prenominal) chief; principal; leadinghis arch rival
(prenominal) very experienced; expertan arch criminal
knowing or superior
playfully or affectedly roguish or mischievous

Derived forms of arch

archly, adverbarchness, noun

Word Origin for arch

C16: independent use of arch-

British Dictionary definitions for arch (3 of 5)



combining form
chief; principal; of highest rankarchangel; archbishop; archduke
eminent above all others of the same kind; extremearchenemy; archfiend; archfool

Word Origin for arch-

ultimately from Greek arkhi-, from arkhein to rule

British Dictionary definitions for arch (4 of 5)


n combining form
leader; ruler; chiefpatriarch; monarch; heresiarch

Word Origin for -arch

from Greek -arkhēs, from arkhein to rule; compare arch-

British Dictionary definitions for arch (5 of 5)


abbreviation for
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

Medical definitions for arch

[ ärch ]

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.

Cultural definitions for arch


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

notes for arch

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.