[ ahrch ]
See synonyms for arch on
  1. Architecture.

    • 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.

    • an upwardly curved construction, as of steel or timber functioning in the manner of a masonry arch.

    • a doorway, gateway, etc., having a curved head; an archway.

    • the curved head of an opening, as a doorway.

  2. any overhead curvature resembling an arch.

  1. something bowed or curved; any bowlike part: the arch of the foot.

  2. a device inserted in or built into shoes for supporting the arch of the foot.

  3. a dam construction having the form of a barrel vault running vertically with its convex face toward the impounded water.

  4. Glassmaking.

    • a chamber or opening in a glassmaking furnace.

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 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 ]

  1. playfully roguish or mischievous: an arch smile.

  1. 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)


  1. 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)


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

Other definitions for -arch (5 of 7)


  1. 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)


  1. archaic.

  2. archaism.

  1. archery.

  2. archipelago.

  3. architect.

  4. architectural.

  5. architecture.

  6. archive; archives.

Other definitions for Arch. (7 of 7)


  1. Archbishop. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use arch in a sentence

  • The way was under a double row of tall trees, which met at the top and formed a green arch over our heads.

  • He thought a little longer, and as he did so, a vision of his arch enemy rose before him.

    The Homesteader | Oscar Micheaux
  • A golden eagle, the armorial ensign of the Ripperda family, crested the centre arch.

  • Bonaparte made his public entry into Milan under a triumphal arch.

  • The girl, without saying a word, takes her by the cold hand, and leads her quickly down to the arch that opens on the hall.

    Checkmate | Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

British Dictionary definitions for arch (1 of 5)


/ (ɑːtʃ) /

  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

  1. something curved like an arch

    • 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)

    • one of the basic patterns of the human fingerprint, formed by several curved ridges one above the other: Compare 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 arch: the cat arched its back

  1. (tr) to span or extend over: the bridge arched the flooded stream

Origin of 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) /

  1. (prenominal) chief; principal; leading: his arch rival

  2. (prenominal) very experienced; expert: an arch criminal

  1. knowing or superior

  2. playfully or affectedly roguish or mischievous

Origin of arch

C16: independent use of arch-

Derived forms of arch

  • archly, adverb
  • archness, noun

British Dictionary definitions for arch- (3 of 5)


combining form
  1. chief; principal; of highest rank: archangel; archbishop; archduke

  2. eminent above all others of the same kind; extreme: archenemy; archfiend; archfool

Origin of arch-

ultimately from Greek arkhi-, from arkhein to rule

British Dictionary definitions for -arch (4 of 5)


n combining form
  1. leader; ruler; chief: patriarch; monarch; heresiarch

Origin of -arch

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

British Dictionary definitions for arch. (5 of 5)


abbreviation for
  1. archaic

  2. archaism

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

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.