noun Architecture.

an enclosed passage between the main entrance and the nave of a church.

Origin of narthex

1665–75; < Late Greek nárthēx, Greek: giant fennel
Related formsnar·the·cal [nahr-thee-kuh l] /nɑrˈθi kəl/, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for narthex

Historical Examples of narthex

  • The narthex is divided into three bays, separated by heavy arches.

  • The southern cella, with its narthex, has been entirely destroyed.

  • It is a basilica with two aisles and apse, narthex and atrium.


    William Holden Hutton

  • The door of the narthex is inserted between the two columns.


    William Holden Hutton

  • It is a triple church, separated by columns and all entered from the narthex.


    William Holden Hutton

British Dictionary definitions for narthex



a portico at the west end of a basilica or church, esp one that is at right angles to the nave
a rectangular entrance hall between the porch and nave of a church

Word Origin for narthex

C17: via Latin from Medieval Greek: enclosed porch, enclosure (earlier: box), from Greek narthēx giant fennel, the stems of which were used to make boxes
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 narthex

"porch at the west end of early churches" (used by penitents not admitted to the body of the church), 1670s, from Late Greek narthex, in classical Greek "giant fennel," of unknown origin. The architectural feature allegedly so called from fancied resemblance of porch to a hollow stem. The word also was used in Greek to mean "a small case for unguents, etc." According to Hesiod ("Theogeny"), Prometheus conveyed fire from Heaven to Earth in hollow fennel stalks. Related: Narthecal.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper