See more synonyms for narrow on
adjective, nar·row·er, nar·row·est.
  1. of little breadth or width; not broad or wide; not as wide as usual or expected: a narrow path.
  2. limited in extent or space; affording little room: narrow quarters.
  3. limited in range or scope: a narrow sampling of public opinion.
  4. lacking breadth of view or sympathy, as persons, the mind, or ideas: a narrow man, knowing only his professional specialty; a narrow mind.
  5. with little margin to spare; barely adequate or successful; close: a narrow escape.
  6. careful, thorough, or minute, as a scrutiny, search, or inquiry.
  7. limited in amount; small; meager: narrow resources.
  8. straitened; impoverished: narrow circumstances.
  9. New England. stingy or parsimonious.
  10. Phonetics.
    1. (of a vowel) articulated with the tongue laterally constricted, as the ee of beet, the oo of boot, etc.; tense.Compare lax(def 7).
    2. (of a phonetic transcription) utilizing a unique symbol for each phoneme and whatever supplementary diacritics are needed to indicate its subphonemic varieties.Compare broad(def 14).
  11. (of livestock feeds) proportionately rich in protein.
verb (used without object)
  1. to decrease in width or breadth: This is where the road narrows.
verb (used with object)
  1. to make narrower.
  2. to limit or restrict (often followed by down): to narrow an area of search; to narrow down a contest to three competitors.
  3. to make narrow-minded: Living in that village has narrowed him.
  1. a narrow part, place, or thing.
  2. a narrow part of a valley, passage, or road.
  3. narrows, (used with a singular or plural verb) a narrow part of a strait, river, ocean current, etc.
  4. The Narrows, a narrow strait from upper to lower New York Bay, between Staten Island and Long Island. 2 miles (3.2 km) long; 1 mile (1.6 km) wide.

Origin of narrow

before 900; Middle English; Old English nearu; cognate with Old Saxon naru narrow, Dutch naar unpleasant; akin to German Narbe scar, literally, narrow mark
Related formsnar·row·ly, adverbnar·row·ness, nouno·ver·nar·row, adjectiveo·ver·nar·row·ly, adverbo·ver·nar·row·ness, nounun·nar·row, adjectiveun·nar·row·ly, adverbun·nar·rowed, adjective

Synonyms for narrow

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for narrowly

carefully, barely, almost, close, nearly, scarcely, painstakingly

Examples from the Web for narrowly

Contemporary Examples of narrowly

Historical Examples of narrowly

  • He went up and handed it to her through the narrowly opened door.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • The door that opened from it into the garden room was narrowly ajar.

  • He opened the door, but soon shut it, narrowly escaping a bears hug.

    The Field of Ice

    Jules Verne

  • "I've done something with him myself," she said, watching him narrowly.

    Ruggles of Red Gap

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • Little Gervais was stricken with fever and narrowly escaped death.


    Emile Zola

British Dictionary definitions for narrowly


  1. small in breadth, esp in comparison to length
  2. limited in range or extent
  3. limited in outlook; lacking breadth of vision
  4. limited in means or resources; meagrenarrow resources
  5. barely adequate or successful (esp in the phrase a narrow escape)
  6. painstakingly thorough; minutea narrow scrutiny
  7. finance denoting an assessment of liquidity as including notes and coin in circulation with the public, banks' till money, and banks' balancesnarrow money Compare broad (def. 14)
  8. dialect overcareful with money; parsimonious
  9. phonetics
    1. another word for tense 1 (def. 4)
    2. relating to or denoting a transcription used to represent phonetic rather than phonemic distinctions
    3. another word for close 1 (def. 21)
  10. (of agricultural feeds) especially rich in protein
  11. narrow squeak informal an escape only just managed
  1. to make or become narrow; limit; restrict
  1. a narrow place, esp a pass or strait
See also narrows
Derived Formsnarrowly, adverbnarrowness, noun

Word Origin for narrow

Old English nearu; related to Old Saxon naru
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 narrowly

Old English nearolice "narrowly, closely, strictly;" see narrow (adj.) + -ly (2). Meaning "only by a little" is attested from 1550s.



Old English nearu "narrow, constricted, limited; petty; causing difficulty, oppressive; strict, severe," from West Germanic *narwaz "narrowness" (cf. Frisian nar, Old Saxon naru, Middle Dutch nare, Dutch naar); not found in other Germanic languages and of unknown origin. The narrow seas (c.1400) were the waters between Great Britain and the continent and Ireland. Related: Narrowness.



Old English nearwian "to force in, cramp, confine; become smaller, shrink;" see narrow (adj.). Related: Narrowed; narrowing.



c.1200, nearewe "narrow part, place, or thing," from narrow (adj.). Old English nearu (n.) meant "danger, distress, difficulty," also "prison, hiding place."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with narrowly


In addition to the idiom beginning with narrow

  • narrow escape

, see

  • straight and narrow
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.