Main definitions of bow in English

: bow1bow2bow3



  • 1A knot tied with two loops and two loose ends, used especially for tying shoelaces and decorative ribbons.

    ‘a girl with long hair tied back in a bow’
    • ‘Bundle the sticks together with raffia ending in a bow at the top, secure with glue if needed.’
    • ‘On it lay a single purple ribbon tied in a bow: a hairpiece for a little girl.’
    • ‘I waited until the puppies were weaned then I tied red bows around their necks, put them in a box and headed to Mrs. Rooney's home.’
    • ‘At the base of the triangle made by her stomacher, and foregrounded by a white ribbon tied in a bow, hangs an emblem of the Queen's chastity.’
    • ‘Hanging on a branch of the biggest pine are my socks, neatly tied in a bow, waiting to be discovered.’
    • ‘He looks very jaunty, hands on hips, his cap pushed back on his head and his cap ribbon tied in a bow.’
    • ‘Pat was wearing a black spandex, long sleeved shirt with a thin thread tied in a bow, slipped in between two tiny holes underneath the neckline.’
    • ‘Tie the very ends of the ribbon together in bow or knot, to form a loop by which to hang the bag.’
    • ‘After your child completes several cards, stack and lace them together through the eyelets on the left edge to form a book, tying the ribbon ends in a bow.’
    • ‘He did these beautiful bead necklaces on a piece of fabric that tied in a bow in the back.’
    • ‘I tied it in a bow and wore it as a belt around my waist.’
    • ‘I picked up a wide blue ribbon, wound it around the ponytail, and tied it in a bow.’
    • ‘It was covered in black velvet with a blood red rose embroidered on the front and a ribbon of the same colour as the rose tied in a bow at the top.’
    • ‘I also had on black three-inch heels with straps that criss-crossed around my ankle and tied in a bow in the back.’
    • ‘She wore a light blue dress with a white apron, and a ribbon, tied in a bow to match the color of her dress, hung gracefully in her hair.’
    • ‘I love the little cream silk ribbon tied in a bow on the door handle to my bathroom.’
    • ‘Tie the red ribbon in a bow and stitch in place through the center knot, referring to the photo for placement.’
    • ‘Next cut a length of narrow holiday ribbon to tie in a bow for the top of the package.’
    • ‘Also, his conversation with his Dad at the end felt a little too scripted and all wrapped up in a bow, I think.’
    • ‘Gather the ribbon ends (make sure all are equal in length) and tie in a bow.’
    • ‘I tied it in a bow around the stem of the flower, and gently stroked the soft fabric before letting my feet carry me downstairs again.’
    loop, knot
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A decorative ribbon tied in a bow.
      • ‘The crowd whooped and cheered when Sliwa bedecked the hood ornament of the mayor's Lincoln with a big yellow bow.’
      • ‘Don't buy expensive ribbons and bows to decorate your packages, if you hunt around you can find the cheap stuff that will be just as pretty!’
      • ‘Ribbons, laces and bows in silk and satin were seen on many designer gowns.’
      • ‘Her shoulders are bare, and she has a big white bow in her hair.’
      • ‘Those are now hung to dry in the woodshed until it is time to bring them indoors, and use them, decked with huge scarlet bows, as Christmas decorations.’
      • ‘Eyeing up some jewellery, Mabel notices a necklace covered in bows.’
      • ‘From all appearances, it looks like walking papers, all tied up in a big red bow!’
      • ‘She may also be wearing a small yellow ring decorated with bows.’
      • ‘Stiff and wooden perhaps, but there are always tiny surprises in Goya's portraits - like the little red bow tied to the dog's back leg.’
      • ‘Montgomery also will put up as many as six Christmas trees and decorate them with bows, ornaments and small photo frames.’
      • ‘Her pale hair was held back in a bow with a brooch at the center of the bow.’
      • ‘Becki ran her hands through her hair and found that the fairies had tied ribbons and bows into it while she slept.’
      • ‘Though the present is beautifully wrapped with bows and ribbons and shiny paper it is filled with a scratchy sweater with reindeer on the front.’
      • ‘Purchase Christmas cards, wrapping paper, tissue, bows, ribbon and decorations for next year while they are on sale now.’
      • ‘Inside the entire palace was decorated in red bows and green holly.’
      • ‘Her two sisters' maid dresses are not as troublesome as hers due to the fact that theirs are plain and hers is full of decorations such as beads, ribbons and bows.’
      • ‘Decorate with raffia bows, evergreen snippets, or labels made from old holiday cards.’
      • ‘Attached to the roses was her engagement ring, secured using the ribbon from the gold bow.’
      • ‘One girl wore a brash pink silk dress, decorated with a giant bow.’
      • ‘You could also ‘wrap’ your front door or window with a bow and ribbon, and some packing tape.’
      loop, knot
      View synonyms
  • 2A weapon for shooting arrows, typically made of a curved piece of wood whose ends are joined by a taut string.

    • ‘They had walked and driven for hours to get there, carrying the only weapons they possessed - bows and arrows, spears and machetes.’
    • ‘He takes a handmade bow, loops the wire around a hardwood stick, and proceeds to saw back and forth.’
    • ‘He ran up to one bowman and cleaved his bow in half.’
    • ‘Yet he did not spy any bows or arrows, javelins, or other weapons that could strike at a distance.’
    • ‘Swords, spears, bows and arrows and many other weapons were being made in full force.’
    • ‘Apart from her loosely held bow, she does not look well-equipped for the hunt.’
    • ‘They stood in the trenches, weapons unsheathed and arrows nocked on bows.’
    • ‘Boys practice shooting bows and arrows at the age of three.’
    • ‘We will also include a selection of ranged weapons such as bows, crossbows and slings.’
    • ‘Dawn drew her bow, nocking an arrow after she strung it.’
    • ‘It's impossible to slouch with a solid three inch bow at your back, and the sandals require short steps.’
    • ‘The catalogue, includes an assortment of weapons: bows and arrows, swords and spears.’
    • ‘As sinew is naturally elastic and horn compressive, their combination resulted in a bow of considerable power, yet which crucially was short enough to use with ease on horseback.’
    • ‘A strung bow with an arrow nocked to the string produced itself from behind her back.’
    • ‘She picked up her hunter's bow and the quiver of poison tipped arrows, and slung them around her shoulder.’
    • ‘When the Cherokee got these new weapons, bows and arrows especially, they were able to kill many more animals than before.’
    • ‘She went into the woods with her bow and arrows and quickly found her prey.’
    • ‘In mounted combat their prime weapons were bow and arrow and lance rather than the awkward and uncertain trade musket.’
    • ‘His followers had matchlocks, spears, swords, bows and arrows.’
    • ‘The gates opened with speed to let the approaching friends in, and bowmen fitted bows to shoot down the riders.’
    longbow, crossbow, recurve
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1A bowman.
  • 3A long, partially curved rod with horsehair stretched along its length, used for playing the violin and other stringed instruments.

    • ‘When all four cellos enter using bows, the texture and performance practices suggest a classical string quartet.’
    • ‘Tenenbaum, who just happened to have her violin, lifted her bow and began to play.’
    • ‘The wood was similar to an East Indian variety called pau brasil, which was then popular in Europe for making cabinets and violin bows.’
    • ‘She gently placed the bow on the violin and very carefully began to play.’
    • ‘Rosin can be used as a plasticizer, in the manufacture of varnishes and printing inks, and also to treat bows for stringed instruments.’
    • ‘And we often set them swaying back and forth with an accidental whack of a violin bow.’
    • ‘As I sang, I was prodded in the leg by the cellist's bow.’
    • ‘The stealer of the show was definitely Peers when he played his guitar like an upside-down guitar with a violin bow.’
    • ‘The light bows are curved outward and strung with black horse hair, which gives the music incisive attacks and lush sustains.’
    • ‘A typical Baroque violin or viol bow had a finely tapered snakewood stick, almost straight or slightly curved outwards.’
    • ‘I seem to remember that although I couldn't play a note on the violin with the bow, I wasn't too bad at pizzicato.’
    • ‘Here is a picture of James aged six, clearly more interested in the violin bow than in the dance.’
    • ‘The bows of the cellos, violins and double-basses seem to caress your heart strings and not those of their instruments.’
    • ‘She watched his downcast face, as he rested the fine horsehair of his bow on his knee.’
    • ‘Many great players have publicly stated that they would rather play on a duff instrument with a great bow than a great instrument with a bad bow.’
    • ‘Once open she proceeds to pull out the violin and rosin her bow.’
    • ‘When the electric is used, it's played with a violin bow, which results in a sound I'm sure we could use to communicate with whales.’
    • ‘They meld beautifully with the electric guitar (played by a violin bow of course).’
    • ‘Red opened up the case, grabbed the little tin soup can and set it out near him; he then took out the old bow and violin and began to play.’
    • ‘Several cultures drink mare's milk; and horse hair is used for violin bows, mattresses and lining for clothes.’
    1. 3.1A single passage of a bow over the strings of a violin or other stringed instrument.
      • ‘Bow every note slowly while concentrating on bow placement and technique.’
      • ‘Rapid bowing, slow bows and staccato to bowing are reviewed, and exercises for each are prescribed.’
      • ‘She claims to have used a lighter bow for Schubert than Brahms.’
  • 4A thing that is bent or curved in shape, in particular.

    1. 4.1A curved stroke forming part of a letter (e.g., b, p)
      • ‘The letter D develops gradually the uncial form ... by lengthening the upper stroke of the bow.’
      • ‘The scribe's standard capital "D" is formed of two strokes, a vertical stroke forming the back that curves a bit to the left at the top, and the right stroke forming the bow.’
      • ‘An interesting stylistic preference in many early Insular documents was to "borrow" a stroke of a preceding letter (usually a letter with a large 'bow'’
      • ‘The letter "B," even in its early stages, begins to lose the upper bow.’
      • ‘In particular, the bow of the letter a is particularly sharp and pointed.’
    2. 4.2A metal ring forming the handle of a key or pair of scissors.
      • ‘Shears are usually six inches long or longer with one bow for the thumb and one elongated bow for two or more fingers.’
      • ‘It has long been known to manufacture scissors with finger and thumb bows either of the same size or with the finger bow larger than the thumb bow.’
      • ‘Yarns of lengths between 3 and 5 mm were sampled with fine point tweezers and spring bow scissors ... from thread ends in damaged areas.’
      • ‘It’s obvious that bow scissors are suitable for delicate work.’
      • ‘At least the finger bow provided at the movable scissors blade is made ... of a resilient synthetic material or similar material.’
    3. 4.3North American A side piece or lens frame of a pair of glasses.
      • ‘This hearing aid device has a body that can be attached to an eyeglasses bow has a channel therein for acceptance of a flexible eyeglasses bow end piece.’
      • ‘The lenses don't meet the corners of the frame where the bows attach.’
      • ‘A pair of eyeglasses includes an elongated lens unit, a pair of connectors, and a pair of elongated bows.’


  • 1Play (a stringed instrument or music) using a bow.

    ‘the techniques by which the pieces were bowed’
    • ‘He took the recorded testimonies of Holocaust survivors and scored them as computer samples against the striking bowed chords of a string quartet.’
    • ‘Equally, it is not string players who are expected to bow a saw or a cymbal.’
    • ‘I could see they were impressed with my first piece as I bowed the last note.’
  • 2Bend into the shape of a bow.

    ‘the sides of the image are squeezed in or bowed out’
    • ‘They were right; each spring I sense the tolling of the cow bells, feel my legs bowing to take the shape of a horse and find myself drawn again to Spain, always arriving in time to mount up and ride out behind the cattle.’
    • ‘The scene fades to the golden arches and a French fry bowed into the shape of smile.’


Old English boga bend, bow, arch of Germanic origin; related to Dutch boog and German Bogen, also to bow.

Main definitions of bow in English

: bow1bow2bow3



  • 1Bend the head or upper part of the body as a sign of respect, greeting, or shame.

    ‘he turned and bowed to his father’
    ‘they refused to bow down before the king’
    ‘councilors stood with heads bowed’
    [with object] ‘she knelt and bowed her head’
    • ‘At concerts, upon arriving to the podium he would first bow to the orchestra and then to the audience.’
    • ‘Isaac's blessing prophesied that Esau would bow down before Jacob; but no, here is Jacob, bowing down before Esau.’
    • ‘Make way heathens, and bow to your celestial overlords!’
    • ‘Drake's head rose from its resting place, I bowed to show my respect to my own creator.’
    • ‘‘You honour me,’ Sothos replied, bowing his head. ‘’
    • ‘The figure bowed to show respect to the man and then stood straight up again.’
    • ‘Formal greetings are made by bowing the head and upper body.’
    • ‘From a field, the horses observe the Statue of Liberty, and, indeed, they bow down before it.’
    • ‘Others, probably close friends, bowed their heads respectfully, mumbling - a prayer perhaps.’
    • ‘The waiter who has magically appeared at her side bows slightly and asks her if she wants anything.’
    • ‘Haman was furious with Mordecai, because Mordecai refused to bow down before him to show his respect.’
    • ‘The Human quickly bowed, as a sign of respect and kindness.’
    • ‘‘Lord, there are bad guys out there,’ he says, bowing his head.’
    • ‘I bow down before it and pray fervently that I never come face to face with it.’
    • ‘Soon I would control legions and all would bow down before me.’
    • ‘It was customary when they finished, to bow as a sign of respect to their master.’
    • ‘On the screen, the little girl bows her head slightly to accept her trophy.’
    • ‘The man climbed off his horse, and bowed to Dominic in respect.’
    • ‘Roland kissed the hand of the priest and rose to his people, and bowed to them in respect.’
    • ‘He urged his followers to bow down before him, in Persian fashion.’
    • ‘He took one final, loving look at his father's serene face and bowed in most profound respect to the body on the bier.’
    • ‘He said he's had fans bow down before him, and shrugged off the hardships of playing the physically demanding part.’
    • ‘Immediately, almost as if it were a reflex Bastian dropped to one knee head bowed as a sign of respect for the future king of Geneval.’
    incline the body, incline the head, make an obeisance, make a bow, nod, curtsy, drop a curtsy, bob, salaam, genuflect, bend the knee, kowtow
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1[with object]Express (thanks, agreement, or other sentiments) by bending one's head respectfully.
      ‘he looked at Hector before bowing grave thanks’
      • ‘The dance ended and he bowed his thanks and left her in the middle of the ballroom.’
      • ‘He was genuinely pleased with this marriage and so Lydia could do nothing, but bow her thanks.’
      • ‘The lad bowed his thanks and knotted the sash around his body in the usual fashion.’
      • ‘I bowed agreement, but ventured to make a suggestion.’
      • ‘Just email me and rant and rave and I'll get back to you, bowing thanks for putting me on your favorites list!’
      • ‘The big retailers have no plans to bow this criticism, however.’
      • ‘She took his hands, and they bowed their heads together.’
      • ‘In his small webbed hands he held Spitz's helmet which Pax gently accepted bowing his thanks.’
    2. 1.2[no object]Bend the body in order to see or concentrate.
      [as adjective] ‘my mother sat bowed over a library book’
      • ‘He stood from the upturned bucket he'd been sitting on and grasped my small hand in his, bowing over it to press his lips firmly onto my hand.’
  • 2Bend with age or under pressure.

    ‘the grass bowed down before the wind’
    [with object] ‘the vines were bowed down with flowers’
    • ‘Pensioners, although they appear bowed by the more strenuous life they once went through, find time for a humorous chat on a bench in front of St Mary's Church.’
    • ‘So as not to feel Time's horrible burden, one which breaks your shoulders and bows you down, you must get drunk without cease.’
    • ‘In both tests, the core failed to melt and showed no sign of panel bowing, bending, or deflection.’
    • ‘I did put out a quiver-tip, which rocked back and forth like a blade of grass bowing and stooping before the wind.’
    • ‘If your walls are bowed, bumpy or imperfect, you might be able to achieve a better finish by stripping them bare.’
    1. 2.1Submit to pressure or to someone's demands.
      ‘the mayor bowed to public opinion’
      • ‘The Government has bowed to pressure for an inquiry into the foot-and-mouth disease crisis and admitted lessons have to be learned.’
      • ‘In the meantime, we can only bow to the scorn of the multitude, and await the judgment of posterity.’
      • ‘Hindu temples have been attacked several times by gangs of Muslim youths, and he said they were not going to be bowed by the repeated attacks.’
      • ‘Pro-European constitution campaigners last night refused to be bowed by the results of the poll.’
      • ‘I fear that yes consumerism has become the new religion and that we are now obliged to bow down before the almighty market.’
      • ‘We are expected to bow down before the divinely written Word, even when that Word famously, ludicrously contradicts itself over and over and over again.’
      • ‘If I can't get it out of you, by God, I will take off my hat and bow down and kiss the feet of the one that can do it better.’
      • ‘Coming into the Olympics, the British sprinters' heads were bowed by the weight of their accusers and they ran as if carrying the cares of the world.’
      • ‘His mind was employed upon Christ, and even bodily he felt as if set free from a great burden which had bowed him down.’
      • ‘The seed and chemical giant bowed to pressure from a wide range of farm groups, who have been reacting to growing opposition from wheat buyers and consumers.’
      • ‘But how many are there who can hear debt knocking at his door, with no end in sight; bowed by pain and sorrow in his family; and still do the right thing?’
      • ‘He realizes that the misfortunes of life, like losing a job or a home, or disastrous illness, may bow him down but can never break him.’
      • ‘Despite giving my backing to his campaign against New Years Eve parties as usual I bowed to peer-group pressure and went out on the night itself.’
      • ‘Before the Constitution all other laws and legislation bow.’
      • ‘Let's forget what makes Greenwich special and just bow down to whatever the property developers want.’
      • ‘Even after Monday night's recount result gave the seat to her opponent, she would not be bowed.’
      • ‘Ministers have bowed to pressure by weakening a series of expensive regulations after protests from cash-strapped home owners.’
      • ‘But last week Britain, too, bowed to the pressure.’
      • ‘If it comes to me having to totally sell out and bow down, I don't think I'll do it.’
      • ‘What happened to her was tragic and awful, but she managed to maintain a level of happiness and refused to be bowed by her illness.’
      • ‘Last month, City of York Council chiefs bowed to pressure from city centre restaurateurs who said York's evening parking bans had badly affected trade.’
      • ‘Now the Government has bowed to pressure and reversed its policy, in a move which should prevent such deaths from happening again.’
      • ‘As Westerners bow down before multiculturalism, we anesthetize ourselves into believing that anything goes.’
      • ‘There followed a prolonged period of discussion on the subject before John finally bowed to pressure from the floor and agreed to stay on for one more year.’
      • ‘Only a day earlier, she had reluctantly bowed to pressure from senior Congress Party members to accept the job.’
      • ‘Late this afternoon, the fire department bowed to that pressure.’
      • ‘But Thistle, to their credit, refused to be bowed and they continued to go for the winner.’
      • ‘Americans can make any graven image they wish to make, and bow down to whatever god or idol they wish.’
      • ‘But bowing your head against dark forces will only help them spread.’
      • ‘This fractured city, crow-branch black, is bowed with armies, bent and hungry, fed with air and black bread.’
      give in, give way, yield, submit, surrender, succumb, capitulate, assent, defer, kowtow, truckle, adhere, conform
      View synonyms
  • 3North American (of a movie or product) be premiered or launched.

    ‘the trailer bowed in theaters nationwide on December 23’
    ‘the Pentium III bowed in early 1999’
    • ‘The same can be said of other models bowing next year.’


  • 1An act of bending the head or upper body as a sign of respect or greeting.

    ‘the man gave a little bow’
    • ‘Then she smiled nicely, took a little bow, blew a kiss, and gave just the briefest, politest, friendliest pump of a fist.’
    • ‘Tyrielle went into a deep bow, his waist length hair touching the floor slightly.’
    • ‘As the skyline took a descending bow, we felt the surge of power riding the carriage to the top.’
    • ‘The song ended and I took a quick, self-conscious bow.’
    • ‘Chavez replied with a smile and a mock bow, just before he grabbed Pen's hands, swept her off her feet and carried her up into the air, screaming.’
    • ‘Grasping the baton with both hands, he takes a single low bow, then turns to face the orchestra.’
    • ‘They also saluted him with a deep 45-degree bow in his honor.’
    • ‘Karajan modestly confines himself to initial bows and a last curtain embellished with bouquets.’
    • ‘He gave her a mock bow and pulled out a set of car keys from his pocket, ‘whatever you say, m'lady.’’
    • ‘They bent down on one knee in a bow before their king.’
    • ‘Sir Robin, clean-cut and the soul of discretion, gives a brief head bow and addresses the Queen as ‘Your Majesty’.’
    • ‘I suppose my eyes conveyed the same message, and I smirked at him, inclining my head in a bow, before stepping up to shake his hand.’
    • ‘‘Thank you, sire,’ she said in a bow before trailing after the two scouts in silence.’
    • ‘Chris gave her a mock bow, before taking her empty bottle.’
    • ‘He nodded towards the pictures and gave a mock bow.’
    • ‘Branson inclined his head slightly in a bow, and Angelie curtsied again.’
    • ‘All of the younger class men sank to the floor in a bow, all except Jessica and Andrew.’
    • ‘I stood there for a while before wandering over to the fountain, where a Hispanic guy was taking mock bows for his friends.’
    • ‘Davis looked up and gave a signal of approval, and after a quick bow, the pair of messengers was gone.’
    • ‘He looked down and saw she was on one knee, in a bow.’
    inclination, obeisance, nod, curtsy, bob, salaam, salutation
    View synonyms
  • 2The premiere or launch of a movie or product.

    ‘the new big screen will make its bow at the game on Saturday’


  • bow and scrape

    • Behave in an obsequious way to someone in authority.

      • ‘Don't call me Lord Peter, Charles, I refuse to allow a perfectly decent though rather dull man to bow and scrape to me!’
      • ‘I was of one of the most noble families of the Roman Empire, yet this man inspired such a fear in me that I would bow and scrape to him.’
      • ‘So Russ flipped out and is in trouble for attacking some poor guy who was probably not in the mood to bow and scrape before the superstar.’
      • ‘Why is it American media types bow and scrape before Europeans as our obvious genetic masters?’
      • ‘The community are now having to bow and scrape, apologising and reasoning for what four freaks, four statistical anomalies, four twisted and tortured minds have done.’
      • ‘He further remarked that Americans were fierce egalitarians who, despite differences of income and status, refused to bow and scrape before anybody.’
      • ‘Last month, I met him at another awards ceremony, and he got similarly royal treatment, with well-wishers and sycophants issuing forth to bow and scrape.’
      • ‘The waiters will bow and scrape and tend to your every wish, for I will have pre-arranged this level of service with the manager.’
      • ‘A series of columns in the November 25 issue all exhibited an irrepressible need to bow and scrape before the Republican right.’
      • ‘But every time we do so, we have had to bow and scrape and beg and plead to please be allowed to do the right thing.’
      • ‘Just so long as we don't have to bow and scrape too much we'll do our bit to improve her day, just as she's done hers to improve all of mine.’
      • ‘People are expected to curtsey, bow and scrape before them.’
      • ‘The fact is that we are expected to bow and scrape to them simply because they were born with that name (or obtained it through marriage).’
      • ‘You can bet on football and basketball with drug-dealing bookmakers as long as you bow and scrape and genuflect when called onto the commissioner's carpet.’
      • ‘Break it up, and let us staff it with people who care about what they do, and do not have to bow and scrape to a Government bureaucracy that inhibits them from being as constructive as they possibly can be.’
      • ‘Just how long is a refugee supposed to bow and scrape?’
      • ‘At the same time, don't bow and scrape before the vulgar, even when they are proud and full of themselves.’
      • ‘The idea that we should bow and scrape to such a family is obscene.’
      • ‘A stubborn defender of his own beliefs, and commendably reluctant to bow and scrape at the altar of the Old Firm, he may have overstepped the mark this time.’
      • ‘How could a region that possessed such an incomparable language bow and scrape to States where people spoke the inferior Hindi?’
  • make one's bow

    • Make one's first formal appearance in a particular role.

      ‘he made his bow as a science fiction writer’
      • ‘Six years ago, he made his full international debut for England to join an elite list of national greats to make their bow around their 21st birthday.’
      • ‘A group of young Burnley fans had a day to remember when Wimbledon made their bow at the National Hockey Stadium in Milton Keynes last weekend.’
      • ‘This is the first time they have progressed beyond the first round since making their bow in the competition in 1995.’
      • ‘But Harry will not be getting any butterflies before he makes his bow after 15 years experience in the butchers trade.’
      • ‘She makes her bow in a Grand Slam outside of Britain, losing in the first round of the 2003 Australian Open’
      • ‘Snooker's glamour boy makes his bow in this year's UK Championship in York at 10 am on Wednesday morning.’
      • ‘The 32-year-old, who was released by Boro at the end of last season, will join his new team-mates at training today before making his bow between the sticks in tonight's friendly against Gainsborough Trinity.’
      • ‘And he has asked the fans to continue pulling in the same direction as the mystery consortium which is looking to back the club, and carry on the fight in any way they can in readiness for the club to make their bow next season.’
      • ‘The centre forward or centre half signed from Guiseley a few weeks ago but has only been available once so far, making tomorrow's game an ideal opportunity to make his bow at Station View.’
      • ‘Another Collyhurst lad makes his bow in the pro ranks on home turf.’
  • take a bow

    • (of a performer) acknowledge applause after a performance by bowing.

      figurative ‘the aides do the grind work while the boss takes the bows’
      • ‘On a day when their three rookies took a bow, the away team could not repeat the spectacular start they had made a day earlier.’
      • ‘But he took a bow at the end with the rest of the cast and no attempt was made to remove him, so he was clearly part of the conception rather than a madman who had wandered in off the street.’
      • ‘All in all a great performance from everyone so take a bow folks and congratulations to all involved.’
      • ‘The girls filed past, and every other girl took a bow.’
      • ‘As trading was described as being brisk throughout the weekend, the organisers of the 13 th Annual Foxford Craft Fair in Foxford must take a bow on a job very well done indeed.’
      • ‘Those who organised the various events and there were many, must take a bow, for all of their efforts.’
      • ‘The girls on stage took a bow and toddled offstage.’
      • ‘The audience gave them a roar of applause as they took a bow.’
      • ‘The band ends and the girls walk off after taking a bow.’
      • ‘Charles, after seeing his partner run off, went to the center of the stage and took a bow, after which he was given tremendous applause from the highly amused audience.’
      • ‘A pleasant applause filled the room and Will took a bow.’
      • ‘At the end, about 30 came out and clapped and took a bow.’
      • ‘It was smiles all round in Killarney as students took a bow at a special graduation ceremony.’
      • ‘One source familiar with the videotape said: ‘After throwing the vase, he takes a bow like he's just completed a performance on stage and then he takes a karate stance.’’
      • ‘When the conductor beckoned them to take a bow after the performance, the audience rose as one to acclaim them.’
      • ‘Finally, after our tearful father called an ambulance, Kelly jumped up, took a bow and said, ‘That was my impression of a dead baby bird!’’
      • ‘Her son Teddy, a musician in his own right who co-wrote some of the songs on her comeback album, tells her exasperatedly that she is meant to stay on stage at the end of her performance and take a bow, not scurry off into the wings.’
      • ‘A great round of applause sounded, and she tried to stand up and take a bow, but fell to the ground laughing.’
      • ‘A young woman takes a bow after her ‘performance’.’
      • ‘When the song was over, everyone applauded and Hailey took a bow.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • bow out

    • Withdraw or retire from an activity, role, or commitment.

      ‘many artists are forced to bow out of the profession at a relatively early age’
      • ‘He bows out, at least in terms of a formal campaign.’
      • ‘What Dawn actually has more of than the original is sharp observation of human nature; how people react in a crisis, how they arrange power structure in a group, who comes to the fore and who bows out.’
      • ‘She bows out because, if she does the talent show at all, she'd rather do a skit - or so she claims.’
      • ‘He will be missed when he bows out of competition.’
      • ‘Such teachers might have taken early retirement or might have bowed out temporarily.’
      • ‘Sometimes when a defense attorney bows out of a case it is because he or she has either come to know too much, has said too much, or has committed him or herself to too much to effectively defend the client.’
      • ‘The dip in applications this year will be a further blow to principals, many of whom are struggling to fill vacancies caused by teachers retiring, bowing out early and leaving the job to go into other careers.’
      • ‘They wanted to retire but feared that their club would fold if they bowed out.’
      • ‘Peers cannot retire, so bowing out means they lose their right to expenses and allowances-worth up to £31,000 a year.’
      • ‘After the collapse, I hastily bowed out and retired for a mug of hot, milky, sugary coffee.’
      • ‘Later, Carmela finds one lawyer, but the effort to reach the unreported assets depends on the work of an investigator who bows out when he learns who is involved.’
      • ‘When Britain's most famous female golfer bows out of the American Tour, the Lancashire Girls champion from Pleasington is well on course to take her place.’
      • ‘By these accounts, it would seem that the only good politician is a non-politician, somebody who bows out deferentially to the sidelines.’
      • ‘The York theatre legend had to bow out of the star role after the opening night when he was taken to hospital with intense stomach pains.’
      • ‘As he bows out of the race he has dominated for 7 years, Armstrong even seems to have finally won the battle for the respect, if not the affection, of France.’
      • ‘I thought he missed his chance to bow out and retire undefeated - but then I am not the first, nor the last, to be wrong.’
      • ‘That doesn't seem to be the case, though, as Pierce has decided to gracefully bow out of the role.’
      • ‘This was a leader who had been transformed from a virtual electoral liability in 1999 into a probable asset for 2003, if he were to call one more election before he bows out.’
      • ‘The embattled leader has been told privately by senior advisers that he either bows out gracefully or risks bringing the party into a damaging dispute.’
      • ‘The D.A. picks the prosecutors, then - usually - bows out.’
      withdraw from, resign from, retire from, step down from, get out of, pull out of, back out of, stop participating in
      give up, quit, leave, abandon
      pack in, chuck, chuck in, jack in
      call it a day, throw in the sponge, throw in the towel
      forsake, demit
      View synonyms


Old English būgan bend, stoop of Germanic origin; related to German biegen, also to bow.

Main definitions of bow in English

: bow1bow2bow3


(also bows)


  • The front end of a ship.

    ‘water sprayed high over her bows’
    ‘stand in the bow’
    • ‘When we stood at the bow of the ship we peered over the edge and watched the maidenhead get battered, the wooden carving taking the abuse in stride.’
    • ‘She turned to cross to the starboard side, but she saw Nathaniel laughing, and she changed her mind and stood at the bow of the ship.’
    • ‘The wide planing hull lends stability for easy shots down tough rapids, and the boat's upturned bow makes punching through big holes a cinch.’
    • ‘The former, as prime contractor, builds the aft and central superstructure, the latter the ship's bow and distinctive pyramidal main mast.’
    • ‘The ceiling lights lit in a sequence from the aft deck to the bow of the ship and the floor lighting blinked twice before staying on.’
    • ‘Once they had hauled out their gear, he motored away, the flag on his little boat's bow snapping in the winter breeze.’
    • ‘The twins stood at the bow of the ship as the creak and groan of ice echoed all around.’
    • ‘Without the support of the bowsprit, the long spar that extends forward from the bow of the ship, there was no support for the masts.’
    • ‘Steve stood at the bow of the ship, unprotected from the storm and hanging on for dear life as he pointed excitedly.’
    • ‘Sitting in the Sequoia's bow, I can hear only the creak of the oars and the muffled roar of the falls.’
    • ‘I am in the musty storage bow of a sailless schooner on the murky waters of the river Styx.’
    • ‘The wrinkles dispersed like waves disappearing before the bow of a ship.’
    • ‘She stood at the bow of the ship, letting the breeze play with her hair.’
    • ‘Before he could say another word the pirate ran to the edge of the bow and jumped ship.’
    • ‘The ship has a bow and a stern ramp for fast landing of troops and combat material.’
    • ‘There were shrapnel pockmarks from bow to stern, and the main living area was just one enormous cavity of burnt wood, twisted metal and torn cables.’
    • ‘Kerry's boat ran up to me in the water, bow on, and I was able to climb up a cargo net to the lip of the deck.’
    • ‘A good 1500 meters stretched from the stubby bow back to the equally stubby stern.’
    • ‘Although the public saw the usual hands at the wheel of the ship of state, they were as decorative as the figureheads on the bows of old sailing ships.’
    • ‘Blackbeard's sword shone in the light, as he stood at the bow of the ship, one knee up, staring foreword at his island.’
    prow, front, forepart, stem, rostrum, ram, nose, head, bowsprit, cutwater
    sharp end
    fore-end, stem-post, beak, beakhead
    View synonyms


  • on the bow

    • Within 45° of the point directly ahead.

      • ‘We held on for dear life, braving the swells of the Tasman Sea, as the dolphins played on the bow and jumped in our wake.’
      • ‘I can't work out whether they are swimming hard or perhaps riding a pressure wave, like a dolphin would on the bow of a boat.’
      • ‘The dive boat hurtled at the swell, outboard motors bellowing, the white-knuckled skipper see-sawing the throttle, the rest of us staring transfixed at the crackling green breakers on the bow.’
      • ‘‘This will not be a problem as they will take this southwesterly gale straight on the bow of the ship,’ the department said.’
      • ‘Four miles out to sea, both Nicholas and Hays agreed that it would be a fine day to see a broadbill or spearfish on the surface and within ten seconds a fin obligingly appeared 300 yards away directly on the bow.’
  • a (warning) shot across the bows

    • A statement or gesture intended to frighten someone into changing their course of action.

      ‘supporters are firing a warning shot across the President's bows’
      • ‘The recall vote was a shot across the bows for all politicians.’
      • ‘There are not that many who have been completely barred but it's fired a warning shot across the bows.’
      • ‘Most observers believe the bill was meant to be a shot across the Islamic Republic's bow.’
      • ‘Apparently they sometimes give you a warning shot across the bows before they sink the fangs in.’
      • ‘This is simply a warning shot across the bows of the Iraqi leadership.’


Late Middle English: from Low German boog, Dutch boeg shoulder or ship's bow; related to bough.