the act or art of playing a stringed instrument with a bow.
the individual way of using the bow in playing a stringed instrument, including the way in which the musician approaches the music emotionally, the articulation of individual notes, and the manner in which the notes of a passage are grouped together.

Origin of bowing

First recorded in 1830–40; bow2 + -ing1
Related formsun·bow·ing, adjective



verb (used without object)

to bend the knee or body or incline the head, as in reverence, submission, salutation, recognition, or acknowledgment.
to yield; submit: to bow to the inevitable.
to bend or curve downward; stoop: the pines bowed low.

verb (used with object)

to bend or incline (the knee, body, or head) in worship, submission, respect, civility, agreement, etc.: He bowed his head to the crowd.
to cause to submit; subdue; crush.
to cause to stoop or incline: Age had bowed his head.
to express by a bow: to bow one's thanks.
to usher (someone) with a bow (usually followed by in, out, etc.): They were bowed in by the footman.
to cause to bend; make curved or crooked.


an inclination of the head or body in salutation, assent, thanks, reverence, respect, submission, etc.

Verb Phrases

bow out, to resign a position or withdraw from a job, competition, obligation, etc.: He bowed out after two terms as governor.

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.




a flexible strip of wood or other material, bent by a string stretched between its ends, for shooting arrows: He drew the bow and sent the arrow to its target.
an instrument resembling this, used for various purposes, as rotating a drill or spindle, or loosening entangled or matted fibers.
a bend or curve.
Also called bowknot. a looped knot composed of two or more loops and two ends, as for tying together the ends of a ribbon or string.
any separate piece of looped, knotted, or shaped gathering of ribbon, cloth, paper, etc., used as a decoration, as on a package, dress, or the like.
a long rod, originally curved but now nearly straight, with horsehairs stretched from one end to the other, used for playing on a musical instrument of the violin and viol families.
a single movement of such a device over the strings of a violin, viol, or the like.
something curved or arc-shaped.
a saddlebow.
an archer; bowman: He is the best bow in the county.
a U-shaped piece for placing under an animal's neck to hold a yoke.
Building Trades. a flexible rod used for laying out large curves.
the part of a key grasped by the fingers.
the loop on the stem of a watch by which the watch is attached to a chain or the like.
a rainbow.


curved outward at the center; bent: bow legs.

verb (used with or without object)

to bend into the form of a bow; curve.
Music. to perform by means of a bow upon a stringed instrument.
Textiles Obsolete. to loosen by passing a vibrating bow among entangled fibers.

Origin of bow

before 1000; Middle English bowe (noun), Old English boga; cognate with Dutch boog, German Bogen, Old Norse bogi; akin to bow1
Related formsbowed·ness, nounbow·less, adjectivebow·like, adjective
Can be confusedbode bowed Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for bowing

Contemporary Examples of bowing

Historical Examples of bowing

  • "I obey directions," he said, bowing respectfully to Mr. Roberts.

  • "I will never forget it again," said Benjamin, bowing his head.

    Biographical Stories

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • The stranger was bowing very low, putting one hand up to his breast.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

  • He rose and turned towards them, bowing, and Margaret saw that it was—d'Aguilar!

    Fair Margaret

    H. Rider Haggard

  • Colonel Woodville waved his hand and Slade, bowing, withdrew.

    The Rock of Chickamauga

    Joseph A. Altsheler

British Dictionary definitions for bowing



the technique of using the bow in playing a violin, viola, cello, or related instrument




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 bowing



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 bowing


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.