[ bou ]
See synonyms for bow on
verb (used without object)
  1. to bend the knee or body or incline the head, as in reverence, submission, salutation, recognition, or acknowledgment.

  2. to yield; submit: to bow to the inevitable.

  1. to bend or curve downward; stoop: the pines bowed low.

verb (used with object)
  1. to bend or incline (the knee, body, or head) in worship, submission, respect, civility, agreement, etc.: He bowed his head to the crowd.

  2. to cause to submit; subdue; crush.

  1. to cause to stoop or incline: Age had bowed his head.

  2. to express by a bow: to bow one's thanks.

  3. to usher (someone) with a bow (usually followed by in, out, etc.): They were bowed in by the footman.

  4. to cause to bend; make curved or crooked.

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

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

Idioms about bow

  1. bow and scrape, to be excessively polite or deferential.

  2. 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.

  1. 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

First recorded before 900; Middle English verb bowen, Old English būgan; cognate with Dutch buigen, German biegen, Gothic biugan, Old Norse buga

synonym study For bow

1. See bend1.

Other words for bow

Other words from bow

  • bowedness, noun
  • bow·ing·ly, adverb

Words that may be confused with bow

Other definitions for bow (2 of 4)

[ boh ]

  1. 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.

  2. an instrument resembling this, used for various purposes, as rotating a drill or spindle, or loosening entangled or matted fibers.

  1. a bend or curve.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. a single movement of such a device over the strings of a violin, viol, or the like.

  6. something curved or arc-shaped.

  7. a saddlebow.

  8. an archer; bowman: He is the best bow in the county.

  9. a U-shaped piece for placing under an animal's neck to hold a yoke.

  10. Building Trades. a flexible rod used for laying out large curves.

  11. the part of a key grasped by the fingers.

  12. the loop on the stem of a watch by which the watch is attached to a chain or the like.

  13. a rainbow.

  1. curved outward at the center; bent: bow legs.

verb (used with or without object)
  1. to bend into the form of a bow; curve.

  2. Music. to perform by means of a bow upon a stringed instrument.

  1. Textiles Obsolete. to loosen by passing a vibrating bow among entangled fibers.

Origin of bow

First recorded before 1000; Middle English noun boue, bouwe, Old English boga; cognate with Dutch boog, German Bogen, Old Norse bogi; akin to bow1

Other words from bow

  • bowedness, noun
  • bowless, adjective
  • bowlike, adjective

Words that may be confused with bow

Other definitions for bow (3 of 4)

[ bou ]

  1. Nautical, Aeronautics.

    • the forward end of a vessel or airship.

    • either side of this forward end, especially with reference to the direction of a distant object: a mooring two points off the port bow.

  2. bows, Nautical. the exterior of the forward end of a vessel, especially one in which the hull slopes back on both sides of the stem.

  1. the foremost oar in rowing a boat.

  2. Also called bowman, bow oar. the person who pulls the foremost oar.

  1. of or relating to the bow of a ship.

Origin of bow

First recorded in 1620–30; from Low German noun boog or Dutch boeg or Danish bov; see bough

Other definitions for Bow (4 of 4)

[ boh ]

  1. Clara, 1905–65, U.S. film actress: known as the “It Girl.” Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use bow in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for bow (1 of 4)


/ (baʊ) /

  1. to lower (one's head) or bend (one's knee or body) as a sign of respect, greeting, assent, or shame

  2. to bend or cause to bend; incline downwards

  1. (intr ; usually foll by to or before) to comply or accept: bow to the inevitable

  2. (tr ; foll by in, out, to etc) to usher (someone) into or out of a place with bows and deference: the manager bowed us to our car

  3. (tr; usually foll by down) to bring (a person, nation, etc) to a state of submission

  4. bow and scrape to behave in an excessively deferential or obsequious way

  1. a lowering or inclination of the head or body as a mark of respect, greeting, or assent

  2. take a bow to acknowledge or receive applause or praise

Origin of bow

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

British Dictionary definitions for bow (2 of 4)


/ (bəʊ) /

  1. a weapon for shooting arrows, consisting of an arch of flexible wood, plastic, metal, etc bent by a string (bowstring) fastened at each end: See also crossbow

    • 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

    • a stroke with such a stick

    • a decorative interlacing of ribbon or other fabrics, usually having two loops and two loose ends

    • the knot forming such an interlacing; bowknot

    • something that is curved, bent, or arched

    • (in combination): rainbow; oxbow; saddlebow

  1. a person who uses a bow and arrow; archer

  2. US

    • a frame of a pair of spectacles

    • a sidepiece of the frame of a pair of spectacles that curls round behind the ear

  3. a metal ring forming the handle of a pair of scissors or of a large old-fashioned key

  4. architect part of a building curved in the form of a bow: See also bow window

  1. to form or cause to form a curve or curves

  2. to make strokes of a bow across (violin strings)

Origin of bow

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

British Dictionary definitions for bow (3 of 4)


/ (baʊ) /

  1. mainly nautical

    • (often plural) the forward end or part of a vessel

    • (as modifier): the bow mooring line

  2. rowing short for bowman 2

  1. on the port bow nautical within 45 degrees to the port of straight ahead

  2. on the starboard bow nautical within 45 degrees to the starboard of straight ahead

  3. a shot across someone's bows informal a warning

Origin of bow

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

British Dictionary definitions for Bow (4 of 4)


/ (bəʊ) /

  1. 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

Other Idioms and Phrases with bow


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.