See more synonyms for aisle on
  1. a walkway between or along sections of seats in a theater, classroom, or the like.
  2. Architecture.
    1. a longitudinal division of an interior area, as in a church, separated from the main area by an arcade or the like.
    2. any of the longitudinal divisions of a church or the like.
  1. in the aisles, (of an audience) convulsed with laughter.

Origin of aisle

1350–1400; alteration (with ai < French aile wing) of earlier isle (with s from isle), ile; replacing Middle English ele < Middle French < Latin āla wing, cognate with axle. See ala
Related formsaisled, adjectiveun·aisled, adjective
Can be confusedaisle I'll isle Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for aisles

Contemporary Examples of aisles

Historical Examples of aisles

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

    English Villages

    P. H. Ditchfield

  • But in the dimness of these two aisles lurks the spirit of the wilds.

    The Forest

    Stewart Edward White

  • Fair the long reaches of sun and shade in the aisles of the forest.


    William D. Howells

  • It is usually in three bays and opens into the aisles and central area.

  • Ladies in beautiful spring dresses were following the vergers up the aisles.

    The Christian

    Hall Caine

British Dictionary definitions for aisles


  1. a passageway separating seating areas in a theatre, church, etc; gangway
  2. a lateral division in a church flanking the nave or chancel
  3. rolling in the aisles informal (of an audience) overcome with laughter
Derived Formsaisled, adjectiveaisleless, adjective

Word Origin for aisle

C14 ele (later aile, aisle, through confusion with isle (island)), via Old French from Latin āla wing
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 aisles



late 14c., ele, "lateral division of a church (usually separated by a row of pillars), from Old French ele "wing (of a bird or an army), side of a ship" (12c., Modern French aile), from Latin ala, related to axilla "wing, upper arm, armpit; wing of an army," from PIE *aks- "axis" (see axis), via a suffixed form *aks-la-. The root meaning in "turning" connects it with axle and axis.

Confused 15c. with unrelated ile "island" (perhaps from notion of a "detached" part of a church), and so it took an -s- when isle did, c.1700; by 1750 it had acquired an a-, on the model of French cognate aile. The word also was confused with alley, which gave it the sense of "passage between rows of pews or seats" (1731), which was thence extended to railway cars, theaters, etc.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper