See more synonyms for arch on
  1. Architecture.
    1. 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.
    2. an upwardly curved construction, as of steel or timber functioning in the manner of a masonry arch.
    3. a doorway, gateway, etc., having a curved head; an archway.
    4. the curved head of an opening, as a doorway.
  2. any overhead curvature resembling an arch.
  3. something bowed or curved; any bowlike part: the arch of the foot.
  4. a device inserted in or built into shoes for supporting the arch of the foot.
  5. a dam construction having the form of a barrel vault running vertically with its convex face toward the impounded water.
  6. Glassmaking.
    1. a chamber or opening in a glassmaking furnace.
    2. pot arch.
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

1250–1300; Middle English arch(e) < Old French arche < Vulgar Latin *arca, feminine variant of Latin arcus arc


  1. playfully roguish or mischievous: an arch smile.
  2. cunning; crafty; sly.
  1. Obsolete. a person who is preeminent; a chief.

Origin of arch

independent use of arch-1



  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


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


  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-

Arch. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for arch

Contemporary Examples of arch

Historical Examples of arch

  • When the window was new it must have been surmounted in the middle of the arch by an ornamental design.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

  • "That could not always have been your ladyship's opinion," said Belinda, with an arch smile.

  • Often and often have I been forced to smile at her arch turns upon me, when I could have beat her for them.

    Clarissa, Volume 2 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • The General turned an arch smile of perplexity upon his chief-of-staff.

    The Cavalier

    George Washington Cable

  • In the midst of the assemblage one figure towers—the Arch Druid.

    Bride of the Mistletoe

    James Lane Allen

British Dictionary definitions for arch


  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
  3. 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)
  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 archthe cat arched its back
  3. (tr) to span or extend overthe bridge arched the flooded stream

Word Origin for arch

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


  1. (prenominal) chief; principal; leadinghis arch rival
  2. (prenominal) very experienced; expertan arch criminal
  3. knowing or superior
  4. playfully or affectedly roguish or mischievous
Derived Formsarchly, adverbarchness, noun

Word Origin for arch

C16: independent use of arch-


abbreviation for
  1. archaic
  2. archaism


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

Word Origin for -arch

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



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

Word Origin for arch-

ultimately from Greek arkhi-, from arkhein to rule
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 arch

c.1300, from Old French arche "arch of a bridge" (12c.), from Latin arcus "a bow" (see arc). Replaced native bow (n.1). Originally architectural in English; transferred by early 15c. to anything having this form (eyebrows, etc.).


1540s, "chief, principal," from prefix arch-; used in 12c. archangel, etc., but extended to so many derogatory uses (arch-rogue, arch-knave, etc.) that by mid-17c. it acquired a meaning of "roguish, mischievous," since softened to "saucy." Also found in archwife (late 14c.), variously defined as "a wife of a superior order" or "a dominating woman, virago."


early 14c., "to form an arch" (implied in arched); c.1400, "to furnish with an arch," from arch (n.). Related: Arching.


also archi-, word-forming element meaning "chief, principal; extreme, ultra; early, primitive," from Latinized form of Greek arkh-, arkhi- "first, chief, primeval," comb. form of arkhos "chief" (see archon).


word-forming element meaning "a ruler," from Greek arkhos "leader, chief, ruler," from arkhe "beginning, origin, first place" (see archon).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

arch in Medicine


  1. 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.

arch in Culture


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


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.