Definition of etch in US English:



[with object]
  • 1Engrave (metal, glass, or stone) by coating it with a protective layer, drawing on it with a needle, and then covering it with acid to attack the parts the needle has exposed, especially in order to produce prints from it.

    ‘aquatint is a process of achieving tone by etching a metal plate’
    • ‘Most manufacturers offer choices of beveled, etched, and stained glass.’
    • ‘I experimented with etching copper plates with three different etchants.’
    • ‘A beginner can produce etched glassware and small flat pieces of glass and mirror with no experience.’
    • ‘Light can focus atoms into simple patterns for etching carbon-coated gold layers.’
    • ‘The front layer of glass is etched with a grid pattern on the inside surface to form a template for the liquid crystals.’
    • ‘The masking layer is patterned so as to form a desired arrangement of metal lines by etching the underlying metal layer.’
    engrave, carve, inscribe, cut, cut in, incise, chisel, chase, score, notch, imprint, impress, deboss, stamp, print, mark
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    1. 1.1 Use the etching process to produce (a print or design).
      • ‘Much controversy still remains regarding the techniques used, but all processes began with etching and/or engraving the desired design on a copperplate.’
      • ‘My fingers lingered on the smooth leaves etched into the metal as I turned to Adam with a questioning look in my eyes.’
      • ‘The early process involved etching a design replicated from a travel book onto a copper plate.’
      • ‘I spot the bar's logo, etched onto the plate glass windows.’
      • ‘One submission called for photographs of victims to be etched into glass plates.’
      • ‘Their names had been etched into the glass but the pane was shattered by hooligans who climbed onto scaffolding and kicked in the windows.’
      • ‘Printing that picks up ink from lines cut or etched in a metal plate is called intaglio printing.’
      • ‘She uses acid to etch designs into the surface of metal plates, echoing the way that wind and water wear away at stone over time.’
  • 2(of an acid or other solvent) corrode or eat away the surface of (something).

    • ‘Then acid etches the rest away, leaving the desired pattern.’
    • ‘In the manufacturing process this copper foil is partly etched away, and the remaining copper forms a network of thin wires.’
    • ‘All of the crystallized copper was enclosed in calcite, which was etched away with a sulfamic acid solution.’
    • ‘Hydrofluoric acid is the only solvent you'll find to etch glass.’
    • ‘It was hard to tell without removing the wax, but Alex thought that the acid had done its job of etching the blade.’
    • ‘As a by-product, fungi can produce organic acids that will corrode and etch inorganic materials.’
    • ‘The cream etches the glass within a few seconds.’
    • ‘The tooth surface is then etched with a gel-like acid to prepare it for an adhesive used to secure the resin composite to the tooth.’
    • ‘Marble is much softer than granite and is highly porous, so it's easily etched by acids.’
    • ‘The acid also can etch the surface, which increases the water penetration through the face of the joint.’
    • ‘Sections were etched with dilute hydrochloric acid.’
    corrode, bite into, eat away, eat into, burn into
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    1. 2.1 Selectively dissolve the surface of (a semiconductor or printed circuit) with a solvent, laser, or stream of electrons.
      • ‘These are typically made from layers of epoxy-based resin and fibreglass and copper, on which conductive tracts are etched.’
      • ‘A perfect lens would be able to focus light more narrowly than conventional lenses, making it possible to etch finer electronic circuits and create more compact and powerful computer chips.’
      • ‘And they could play a role in hyper-accurate gyroscopes or help etch superfast computer chips.’
      • ‘By shrinking the size of the transistors and other features etched into the silicon, more of the tiny devices can be squeezed onto a single chip.’
      • ‘Until Ishikawa, no one had tried to etch a semiconductor's tiny circuitry onto a curved surface, much less onto a sphere.’
      • ‘One method uses a lapping medium which chemically etches the selected material more aggressively than the surrounding material, resulting in the selected material being recessed from the surface of the transducer.’
      • ‘Chip production involves some pretty noxious substances, such as the decidedly nasty hydrofluoric acid used to etch the silicon wafers.’
  • 3Cut or carve (a text or design) on a surface.

    ‘her initials were etched on the table’
    figurative ‘his name is etched in baseball history’
    • ‘The major turned the buckle in his fingers and frowned at the jagged characters etched into the metal.’
    • ‘And it's like other dates that you know are going to be etched in our memory forever.’
    • ‘The year 1963 is etched in the hearts and minds of many people as the year in which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.’
    • ‘The design is etched into the gold leaf with a sharp needle-like instrument.’
    • ‘I could take a screwdriver and etch some very interesting designs on your car, but I doubt you would call me an artist.’
    • ‘So if you want to remember a date that will be etched in history, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast area August 29th.’
    • ‘While some actors would resent never being able to shake off their past, John says he is proud to have been responsible for a character who is indelibly etched on the nation's psyche.’
    • ‘‘Her nickname was Malva, and that is what is etched onto the glass,’ said Arnot.’
    • ‘It was an impressive place, to be sure; the ceiling was high above the floor and intricate designs were etched into the stone and wood.’
    • ‘Islamic words and passages from the Koran (the sacred text of Islam) are often etched in elaborate calligraphy.’
    • ‘Miller was the first photojournalist to witness these scenes, and the images she captured are indelibly etched on the public consciousness.’
    • ‘The date it all started is indelibly etched on the former police officer's memory.’
    • ‘The final will be a huge undertaking for a team which could be etched in the annals of history.’
    • ‘Etched inside the shank and barely visible is the jeweller's mark, a delicate snowflake.’
    • ‘Guernica is etched in my consciousness as the image of defencelessness, trampled innocence, Franco's savagery.’
    • ‘The Torah was etched into stone and brought down a mountain.’
    • ‘Public education is a responsibility that is etched into the constitutions or statutes of the states.’
    • ‘Wednesday 30th September 1984 was such a life-changing day for me that the date has been etched on my memory ever since.’
    • ‘On either side of him were tall columns of black stone upon which were etched stories of evil gods and battles from long ago.’
    • ‘The poem will be etched in the memorial stone - a tangible acknowledgement of the loss of life and accompanying grief, says Appleton.’
    carve, engrave, incise, score
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    1. 3.1 Mark (a surface) with a carved text or design.
      ‘a Pictish stone etched with mysterious designs’
      figurative ‘her face was etched with tiredness’
      • ‘The great claymore shone in all its glory, its black and gold hilt, intricately etched with the markings of the society.’
      • ‘They also vandalized three fast-food restaurants by etching the glass.’
      • ‘Its surface was etched with carvings and hieroglyphics, dating back to the dawn of the world itself.’
      • ‘Where needed, precast concrete panel walls are erected, etched with images of local wildlife.’
      • ‘Standing at the centre of the memorial are six large basalt obelisks etched with the names of all the countries where Australians have been held prisoner of war.’
      carve, inscribe, cut, cut in, incise, chisel, chase, score, imprint, impress, print, mark
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    2. 3.2 Cause to stand out or be clearly defined or visible.
      ‘Jo watched the outline of the town etched against the sky’
      • ‘What they achieved during this summer will be forever etched in the history of the club.’
      • ‘It was a wonderful game that will forever be etched in the memory.’
      • ‘I'll never forget what happened in Sydney last year, that's etched in my mind forever.’
      • ‘Lines of concern, however, were etched into his handsome face, framed by a luxurious mane of shoulder length light brown hair.’
      • ‘In one vast flash of light, equal to 100 suns, the buildings are etched against a sky of fire.’
      • ‘When the team reflect upon this defeat, two questions will be etched in their minds.’
      • ‘The times I have been able to spend with you will always be etched in my memory.’
      • ‘One sobering statistic that will be forever etched in my mind is that over 3,000 children lost a mother or father on that fateful day.’
      • ‘‘I thought you were different,’ he said, his features etched with disappointment.’
      • ‘I still remember the hurt that was etched on his face as he tried to come to terms with the defeat and more particularly, the manner of that defeat.’
      • ‘But, for the staff and patients who had the chance of a lifetime to speak to Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh, it was a moment that will be etched on their memories forever.’
      • ‘The Old Man of Storr is etched against a cloudy sky.’
      • ‘Joy was etched on their young faces as they danced to the music, passed the parcel and ate prettily-decorated cakes.’
      • ‘His eyes stare dully from a pinched little face etched with pain and suffering.’
      • ‘Many memories were lost or left behind that day, but some are indelibly etched on the minds of the islanders forever.’
      • ‘But the events which unfolded on the afternoon of January 14 will be forever etched in the memories of all those involved.’
      • ‘Ironically, September 19th, 2003, is etched in the memory of most local people for a completely different reason.’
      • ‘Anna ran in the room, her face etched with lines of worry.’
      • ‘The trials and tribulations that the college faced and the tortuous path it traversed are deeply etched in the memories of those who are associated with it.’
      • ‘The horror of what followed is permanently etched on countless memories.’
      • ‘Wednesday, April 11 th 2001 will forever be etched in my memory as one of the best days of my life.’
      outline, delineate, define, demarcate, delimit, mark off, trace
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    3. 3.3be etched (of an experience, image, etc.) be permanently fixed in someone's memory.
      ‘the events remain etched in the minds of all who witnessed them’


  • The action or process of etching something.

    • ‘By using retarding agents of different strengths within the same panel, decorative features can be created by varying the depth of the etch on elements of a pattern or design.’
    • ‘These solutions are available from several manufacturers in different strengths to achieve the required depth of etch and a finish that meets the original specification.’
    • ‘Jim continued to run his fingers over the artifact, exploring each etch and nick.’
    • ‘The chips are encoded by generating nanometer-thick layers of porous films on the wafers using a special electrochemical etch.’
    • ‘It's a simple technique: put the carbon paper where you want your etch, take the line drawing, and use a pen to trace over it.’
    • ‘Sandblasting allows better control of the depth of the etch.’


Mid 17th century: from Dutch etsen, from German ätzen, from a base meaning ‘cause to eat’; related to eat.