bow and scrape, to be excessively polite or deferential.
    make one's bow, to appear publicly for the first time, as a performer, politician, etc.: The young pianist made her bow last night to an appreciative audience.
    take a bow, to step forward or stand up in order to receive recognition, applause, etc.: The conductor had the soloists take a bow.

Origin of bow

before 900; Middle English bowen (v.), Old English būgan; cognate with Dutch buigen; akin to German biegen, Gothic biugan, Old Norse buga, etc.
Related formsbowed·ness, nounbow·ing·ly, adverb
Can be confusedbough bow

Synonyms for bow

Synonym study

1. See bend1. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for bow and scrape

bow, curtsy, grovel, kowtow, stoop

British Dictionary definitions for bow and scrape




to lower (one's head) or bend (one's knee or body) as a sign of respect, greeting, assent, or shame
to bend or cause to bend; incline downwards
(intr ; usually foll by to or before) to comply or acceptbow to the inevitable
(tr ; foll by in, out, to etc) to usher (someone) into or out of a place with bows and deferencethe manager bowed us to our car
(tr; usually foll by down) to bring (a person, nation, etc) to a state of submission
bow and scrape to behave in an excessively deferential or obsequious way


a lowering or inclination of the head or body as a mark of respect, greeting, or assent
take a bow to acknowledge or receive applause or praise
See also bow out

Word Origin for bow

Old English būgan, related to Old Norse bjūgr bent, Old High German biogan to bend, Dutch buigen




a weapon for shooting arrows, consisting of an arch of flexible wood, plastic, metal, etc bent by a string (bowstring) fastened at each endSee also crossbow
  1. a long slightly curved stick across which are stretched strands of horsehair, used for playing the strings of a violin, viola, cello, or related instrument
  2. a stroke with such a stick
  1. a decorative interlacing of ribbon or other fabrics, usually having two loops and two loose ends
  2. the knot forming such an interlacing; bowknot
  1. something that is curved, bent, or arched
  2. (in combination)rainbow; oxbow; saddlebow
a person who uses a bow and arrow; archer
  1. a frame of a pair of spectacles
  2. a sidepiece of the frame of a pair of spectacles that curls round behind the ear
a metal ring forming the handle of a pair of scissors or of a large old-fashioned key
architect part of a building curved in the form of a bowSee also bow window


to form or cause to form a curve or curves
to make strokes of a bow across (violin strings)

Word Origin for bow

Old English boga arch, bow; related to Old Norse bogi a bow, Old High German bogo, Old Irish bocc, and bow 1




mainly nautical
  1. (often plural)the forward end or part of a vessel
  2. (as modifier)the bow mooring line
rowing short for bowman 2
on the port bow nautical within 45 degrees to the port of straight ahead
on the starboard bow nautical within 45 degrees to the starboard of straight ahead
a shot across someone's bows informal a warning

Word Origin for bow

C15: probably from Low German boog; related to Dutch boeg, Danish bov ship's bow, shoulder; see bough



Clara, known as the It Girl . 1905–65, US film actress, noted for her vivacity and sex appeal
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 bow and scrape



Old English bugan "to bend, to bow down, to bend the body in condescension," also "to turn back" (class II strong verb; past tense beag, past participle bogen), from Proto-Germanic *bugon (cf. Dutch buigen, Middle Low German bugen, Old High German biogan, German biegen, Gothic biugan "to bend," Old Norse boginn "bent"), from *beugen, from PIE root *bheug- (3) "to bend," with derivatives referring to bent, pliable, or curved objects (cf. Sanskrit bhujati "bends, thrusts aside;" Old High German boug, Old English beag "a ring"). The noun in this sense is first recorded 1650s. Related: Bowed; bowing. Bow out "withdraw" is from 1942.



weapon for shooting arrows, Old English boga "archery bow, arch, rainbow," from Proto-Germanic *bugon (cf. Old Norse bogi, Old Frisian boga, Dutch boog, German Bogen "bow;" see bow (v.)). The sense of "a looped knot" is from 1540s. The musician's bow (1570s) formerly was curved like the archer's. Bowlegged is attested from 1550s.



"front of a ship," mid-14c., from Old Norse bogr or Middle Dutch boech "bow of a ship," literally "shoulder (of an animal)," the connecting notion being "the shoulders of the ship." See bough.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with bow and scrape

bow and scrape

Behave obsequiously or too deferentially, as in In this fashionable store, the salespersons virtually bow and scrape before customers. This term alludes to the old-fashioned custom of bowing so deeply that one's foot draws back and scrapes the ground. A cliché for a century or more, it may be dying out. [Mid-1600s]


In addition to the idioms beginning with bow

  • bow and scrape
  • bowl of cherries, life is just a
  • bowl over
  • bow out

also see:

  • take a bow
  • two strings to one's bow
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.