Main definitions of inch in English

: inch1inch2

inch1

noun

  • 1A unit of linear measure equal to one twelfth of a foot (2.54 cm)

    ‘the toy train is four inches long’
    ‘eighteen inches of thread’
    • ‘There were two beds shoved in either corner of the room with about a foot to eighteen inches of room in between each one.’
    • ‘Together, the two measured 82 feet 5 inches in length and were launched vertically.’
    • ‘The boys take out a measuring tape and measure her: she is four feet, 10 inches tall.’
    • ‘Are you sure you are measuring in inches and not centimeters?’
    • ‘When you use this routine, set the input units to feet and inches.’
    • ‘The original instrument is a wooden tube (possibly of Yew wood), slightly tapered, and measuring six foot four inches in length.’
    • ‘Arriving there, Legrand noted one particular ledge about twelve inches wide and eighteen inches long, several feet below the top of the rock.’
    • ‘Progress can be slow; you measure it in inches and feet, not miles or kilograms.’
    • ‘The square measured approximately two inches from side to side.’
    • ‘I still talk about acres, yards, feet and inches; not forgetting gallons and pints and also hundredweights pounds and ounces.’
    • ‘It was big, maybe eighteen inches from feet to head.’
    • ‘She weighed 186 pounds and was five feet four inches tall.’
    • ‘Then she took a tape measure from her pocket, took the measurement and said, ‘Eighteen feet, six inches,’ and walked away.’
    • ‘He was a rather small man and stood only a few inches above Mary, who one could measure at five feet and four inches.’
    • ‘The size is due to a screen which measures a massive four inches diagonally.’
    • ‘Each one had six feet by eighteen inches to call their own and the privacy was almost nil.’
    • ‘The prints are available in various sizes from 8 by 10 inches to 44 inches by 10 feet.’
    • ‘We asked the surgeon, are you talking millimeters, centimeters, inches?’
    • ‘The units can be feet, inches or any other measurement, so long as it's consistent.’
    • ‘A meter is about three feet and three inches and a kilometer equals about six tenths of a mile.’
    1. 1.1[often with negative] A very small amount or distance.
      ‘I had no intention of budging an inch’
      • ‘New Labour, like the rest of us, must surely know they're going to romp the next election but they aren't prepared to budge an inch just in case.’
      • ‘Our glass didn't budge an inch and neither of us thought of Jane.’
      • ‘Bagai brought up her face, their eyes distanced by mere inches.’
      • ‘Azrael remained relaxed, just waiting for Richard to come inches within his distance.’
      • ‘The Senate conferees would not budge an inch from their original position.’
      • ‘Autorickshaw drivers, on the other hand, refuse to budge an inch on the issue of switching to digital meters.’
      • ‘She boosted him up one-handed, and her smile was shaky as she faced him from a distance of inches.’
      • ‘After setting the distance in inches of my average step, I hooked it on to my waistband and flounced around the kitchen and dining room for several minutes.’
      • ‘He budged not one inch on the bitter controversies dividing his party…’
      • ‘Thirdly, despite working crazy hours I seemed to have all the ingredients needed for this particular tart without budging an inch.’
      • ‘The CPI has said the government refused to budge an inch despite several pleas by delegations which have met the Home Minister.’
      • ‘Overall, everyone's favourite self-indulgent superpower hasn't budged an inch.’
      • ‘Scalia budged not one inch during the question-and-answer period after a speech Tuesday at Amherst College in Massachusetts.’
      • ‘If he wants to knock back our amendments, we won't be budging an inch.’
      • ‘I want carnage, I want blood, I want screaming in the cathedrals; I want begging and repentance and the look on your face when you realise that I'm not budging an inch.’
      • ‘Yes, indeed, the transgenerational poor are excluded, as the bottom fifth of our population has not budged an inch in the luxe explosion.’
      • ‘Perhaps that was you, the pudgy little yuppie-boy, who wouldn't budge even an inch to let me get a drink at the bar?’
      • ‘If she doesn't budge an inch, it may be time to call in the reinforcements (that means ask your parents or school counselors to step in).’
      • ‘Not that this has persuaded any of Mr Keyes' successors at the Dublin Custom House over the past half century or so to budge an inch.’
      • ‘Fact is, as this tricky little self-delusional phrase indicates, corporately we're not budging an inch, and never will until we're all dead of profit.’
      little bit, small amount, particle, degree, speck, fragment, scrap, crumb, grain, morsel, taste, soupçon, shred, mite, dash, drop, pinch, ounce, touch, tinge, dab, jot, iota, whit, tittle, jot or tittle, atom, inch, snippet, sliver, smattering, scintilla, hint, suggestion, whisper, trifle
      View synonyms
  • 2A unit used to express other quantities, in particular.

    • ‘All those states report huge amounts of rain, 16 inches in parts of North Carolina, with the inevitable result.’
    • ‘Rainfall amounts still on the order of maybe two to five inches.’
    • ‘It occurs in an empty docklands warehouse, water 5 inches deep on the floor, ceiling dripping.’
    • ‘But further south, we're looking at rainfall anywhere between five and 10 inches on average.’
    • ‘A typical June may bring temperatures ranging from 34 to 97 degrees and less than an inch of moisture.’
    • ‘New York City says cleanup generally means $1 million for each inch of snowfall.’
    • ‘The airport gets about 120 inches of rain per year.’
    • ‘There you see a beautiful picture out of Washington, DC and what we can expect there, 4 to 8 inches of snowfall there.’
    • ‘More than four inches of rain fell in a 24-hour period in Santa Barbara.’
    1. 2.1 (as a unit of rainfall) a quantity that would cover a horizontal surface to a depth of one inch.
      • ‘In July in 1861, an incredible 366 inches of rain fell during what had been a record-breaking year for rainfall in the region.’
      • ‘Wiltshire was hit by flash floods on Tuesday after inches of torrential rain fell on the district.’
      • ‘Almost four inches of rain fell on the region during a 12-hour period.’
      • ‘Boscastle, on the north coast of Cornwall, was struck after a downpour in which seven inches of rain fell in nine hours.’
      • ‘Norden, Milnrow and Sudden were the worst hit areas in the storm - which is being blamed on freak weather sweeping in from Spain - where nearly an inch of rain fell within an hour.’
    2. 2.2 (as a unit of atmospheric pressure) an amount that would support a column of mercury one-inch high in a barometer (equal to 33.86 millibars, 29.5 inches being equal to one bar)
      • ‘What is the formula for converting pressure in millibars of pressure to inches of mercury?’
      • ‘Readings are calculated using the air temperature in degrees Fahrenheit, humidity in percentage of relative humidity, and barometric pressure in inches of mercury.’
      • ‘Average barometric pressure in Tampa Bay during the summer is about 29.8 inches of mercury or about 1013 millibar (mb).’
      • ‘The amount of vacuum, in inches of mercury, is equal to the weight of the column of water from the water table to the surface.’
      • ‘P2 is the actual barometric pressure, expressed in inches of mercury, at the cruise altitude above the destination airport.’

verb

[NO OBJECT]
  • 1 Move slowly and carefully in a specified direction.

    ‘the 2,000 mourners inched along narrow country lanes’
    figurative ‘the stock market inched ahead today’
    • ‘It was a slow day for all concerned as South Africa inched along at barely three runs an over, but they had their plan and they were sticking with it.’
    • ‘When I was on the other side, I lowered myself to my belly and inched along the hardwood floor.’
    • ‘Aubrey let go of my shoulders and we inched along the fallen rocks, his hand between my shoulder blades.’
    • ‘The room was pitch black as he entered and inched along the carpeted floor.’
    • ‘He inched along the wooden corridor holding his breath and gritting his teeth with each step.’
    • ‘The light was inching along slowly, but it had almost finished its circuit.’
    • ‘I inched along the bottom, lying as flat as I could and head-on, as far as I could judge, to the direction of the moving water.’
    • ‘I sat upstairs and squinted into shop windows as the bus inched along.’
    • ‘As I sat on a bus today, inching along in traffic, it became clear to me that all buses should be free.’
    • ‘At this point, Jenni had begun to inch away along the wall, palms pressed against the rough surface of the wall.’
    • ‘We moved silently, talking in whispers, inching along on our scraping skis.’
    • ‘Asha slowly inched along the wall, but Lucas followed her, practically stepping on top of her.’
    • ‘Rachel inched along the edge of the shrubbery towards the opposite side of the fountain.’
    • ‘Mackenzie inched along slowly as he probed for sure footing with each step.’
    • ‘‘It is always a magical experience to come back here,’ says Caroline as we inch along the banks of the salmon stream flowing past the lodge.’
    • ‘Turning away to look helplessly at Kaethe, he inched sideways along the wall like a retreating crab.’
    • ‘Work on the long anticipated National Pension Scheme has been inching along slowly but surely.’
    • ‘Limited visibility due to heavy rain and massive traffic jams forced us to inch along in the Blazer.’
    • ‘The traffic seemed to be inching along for the first 30 minutes and there was plenty of time to look around.’
    • ‘Stealthily, you inch along a narrow and foreboding corridor.’
    1. 1.1[with object] Cause (something) to move slowly and carefully.
      ‘he inched the car forward’
      • ‘They kept begging and pleading with him, but he kept relentlessly inching the vehicle forward.’
      • ‘Aleck tried to pull the ring off, by slowly inching it forward and twisting from side to side, but had no luck either.’
      • ‘He suddenly snapped his gaze onto me and glared, causing me to slowly inch my body away from him in fear.’
      • ‘His hands found the zipper at the back of her dress and slowly inched it down, not wanting to startle her.’
      • ‘She placed her hand on the door frame, carefully inching the side of her body around to see…’
      • ‘The screwdriver barely fit, and he was just tall enough to reach it, but it was enough, and he started to slowly inch the screws out of the door.’
      • ‘I inched my foot over towards Kira, lifting it up over her tiny, sandaled toes.’
      • ‘Retrieving the pot from the center of the table, Lorna refilled his cup and inched it forward.’
      • ‘He would slowly inch his finger into the case while his comrades watched, rubbing their hands together in maniacal glee.’
      • ‘The engine revved as she gunned it, then inched it forward and down over the bank onto the solid gravel beside the water.’
      • ‘Rondo screeched as she was bashed by winter seas so big and heavy that they slowly inched the ship across the 100 ft-wide island.’
      • ‘Only the edge of her profile was visible, so I inched it forward to get a better view.’
      • ‘As the theater grows dark, Kyle shuts up, puts his popcorn in his lap, and slowly inches his arm around the back of Kenzie's seat.’
      • ‘Perhaps mine just has a slippery slope and I have been slowly inching my family toward the sharp edge of the cliff.’
      • ‘When the movie resumed, Jude slowly began inching my blanket onto him.’
      • ‘He inched his little body forward slightly and started to nibble.’
      • ‘Slowly, millimetre by careful millimetre, she inched her hand towards the pouch.’
      • ‘The diesel engine purrs and inches the boat forward, allowing tall waves to strike the boat sideways.’
      • ‘As he inched the jeep forward, Jim could see that the asteroid debris in this area was disturbed.’
      • ‘So as she saw him slowly inching his face to hers, she couldn't help but inch toward him as well.’

Phrases

  • by inches

    • 1Only just.

      ‘the shot missed her by inches’
      • ‘It missed me by inches and shattered when it hit the wall.’
      • ‘A court heard that Bradley became annoyed after a shot missed his head by inches and none of Mr Haley's group had shouted ‘fore’ to warn him.’
      • ‘Luckily for him, the Brazilian's shot misses the far post by inches.’
      • ‘He was taken to hospital in Chorley with cuts and bruises after part of the lorry smashed through his windscreen missing his head by inches.’
      • ‘Minutes later he missed a tempting cross by inches.’
      • ‘He was so drunk he fell into the wall, missing me by inches.’
      • ‘The next day, Stone Phillips missed me by inches on a shot near the ninth fairway.’
      • ‘A coach driver cheated death when a gang of youths hurled lumps of concrete through his windscreen as he drove under a bridge - missing him by inches.’
      • ‘Traffic police said they believe a gust of wind uprooted the tree and sent it smashing on to Moira's new black VW Golf, slicing through the roof and missing her by inches.’
      • ‘But Mooney was out of luck when his sizzling low drive missed the post by inches.’
    • 2Very slowly and gradually; bit by bit.

      ‘you can't let him die by inches like this’
      • ‘But when we see a man destroy himself by inches, I hope we can muster up some compassion.’
      • ‘Compromises like that pay lip service to the marriage institution while the individuals within it die by inches.’
      • ‘It's hard to watch your son or your daughter dying by inches.’
      • ‘No, we - and most of the warrior Houses - have always felt that an overdose of painkillers in those cases is far better than to slip away by inches.’
      • ‘When personal liberties are lost in this country, it happens by inches at a time.’
      • ‘More importantly we do not want to die in a manner which brings pain to those we love most, for I do not believe there is any worse pain than watching someone you love die by inches.’
      • ‘We but dishonour those who died in dying ourselves by inches.’
      • ‘Death by inches and hideous mutilation are the invariable measure meted out to all who fall in battle into the hands of the Pathan tribesmen.’
      • ‘And wit is plentiful, edged with sadness: Hockstader is dying by inches.’
      • ‘A Russian woman who never learned a stick of English is dying by inches up on the third floor of the Northwest corner of Greenwich.’
  • every inch

    • 1The whole surface, distance, or area.

      ‘between them they know every inch of the country’
      • ‘Mike has subjected every inch of the floor and cabinet area around the sink to a microscopic sniff test.’
      • ‘The pavement is so uneven that it seems almost a work of art, cars occupy every inch of space, and pickpockets make a good living.’
      • ‘He knew every inch of that museum, every painting, every room.’
      • ‘Danger lurks every inch of the treacherous stretch with no reflectors or signboards to indicate the width of the road.’
      • ‘She realized, however, that she could not do it alone, even if she filled every inch of her small home and yard with plants.’
      • ‘Our driver, a prosperous local farmer from the area, knows every inch of the land.’
      • ‘Our hosts, Norsemaid Charters, have been in the business for 15 years and know every inch of the area.’
      • ‘But every inch of canvas is the product of hard conceptual crafting.’
      • ‘If human beings have the right to occupy every inch of the earth, so do animals.’
      • ‘Kits were designed to cover every inch of visible flesh but they survived long after such heavily mannered prudishness had deceased.’
    • 2Entirely; very much so.

      ‘he's every inch the gentleman’
      • ‘Fully formed now, the man before me today looks every inch the confident star.’
      • ‘Clad in sou'wester and thigh boots, his rugged, bearded features are every inch the Victorian lifeboatman.’
      • ‘Contrary to my expectations, he was every inch the country gentleman, a charming and solicitous host.’
      • ‘Feverishly chewing gum and shifting nervously in his seat he looked every inch what he was… a politician under siege.’
      • ‘Immaculately besuited, he is every inch the genial Latino gentleman.’
      • ‘Today, the 50-year-old looks every inch the cowboy that he plays in the remake of the classic Western.’
      • ‘On the surface he appeared every inch the successful businessman but we discovered a dark past.’
      • ‘Resplendent in their burgundy and yellow strip, the Salisbury side took the field looking every inch a professional outfit.’
      • ‘But there was an interesting line from the man who year in year out says that his budgets are every inch a Labor budget.’
      • ‘Gregson looks every inch the private banker: tall, bald, bespectacled, carefully dressed in a dark suit.’
      absolutely, completely, totally, fully, wholly
      View synonyms
  • give someone an inch and he (or she) will take a mile

    • proverb Once concessions have been made to someone they will demand a great deal.

      • ‘And he's proven in the past that, if you give him an inch, he'll take a mile.’
      • ‘Never lend Mike any money, he is something of a kind that you give him an inch and he will take a mile.’
      • ‘You give her an inch, she'll take a mile. Next thing you know, she's expecting you to clean up after yourself, pick out your own clothes for the day, and even flush the toilet.’
  • inch by inch

    • Gradually; bit by bit.

      ‘inch by inch he crept along the wall’
      • ‘You measure progress inch by inch, not by leaps and bounds.’
      • ‘Despite everything that weighs us down, we continue to creep forward inch by inch.’
      • ‘Slowly, inch by inch, the rope moved across the room.’
      • ‘Some of which we can now queue to see, filing along inch by inch, but much of which is still hidden two metres below the city's Georgian architecture.’
      • ‘The tide rose noticeably inch by inch, creeping up the two seaward tires alarmingly, my tires spun ever-deeper holes in the wet sand.’
      • ‘After a few moments of just pulling with no reaction from the sled, and one foot slipping up on the ground, Buck actually begins to move the sled forward very slowly, inch by inch!’
      • ‘Although toxic floodwaters receded inch by inch, only five of New Orleans' normal contingent of 148 drainage pumps were operating, the corps said.’
      • ‘The woman's voice rose higher, quivering, filled with the pain of who knew how many fights, with the water of how many hells, which approached him as soon as the dam broke, advancing inch by inch.’
      • ‘My reputation was earned inch by inch, slowly and painfully.’
      • ‘For the next three hours, the structure was edged into place inch by inch, so slowly that at times it seemed to be motionless in midair.’
      slowly, moderately, unhurriedly, cautiously, gently, gingerly, circumspectly, unspectacularly
      View synonyms
  • within an inch of

    • Very close to.

      ‘her mouth was within an inch of his chin’
      • ‘I hadn't realised how close he was and consequently find myself within an inch of his mouth if I tilt my head upwards.’
      • ‘Over-civilization and barbarism are within an inch of each other…’
      • ‘Or more accurately for me, within an inch of the toilet bowl.’
      • ‘Her clothing was caught in the vehicle and a wheel came within an inch of her before she was thrown clear, said Tom Storey, prosecuting.’
      • ‘A teenager came within an inch of losing an eye after he was blasted in the face by an airgun thug.’
      • ‘Even if they weren't, their performance last year, when they came within an inch of beating Caltra in the Connacht final, suggested that they were contenders.’
      • ‘Every chip would drop within an inch of the other.’
      • ‘Because the computer ‘camera’ occupies no space in this virtual reality, objects like bubbles can pass within an inch of your cheek.’
      • ‘The first designer flats and homes appeared near to City's home some years ago, and soon enough, miracles aside, they will march all over the turf, no doubt packed in to within an inch of what is allowed.’
      • ‘The camera drops to within an inch of the macadam so that our brains, too, can get a good rattle, as Jason and Marie's car seems to race straight out of the screen.’
  • (to) within an inch of one's life

    • Almost to the point of death.

      ‘he was beaten within an inch of his life’
      • ‘Unable to understand his account of where he lived, the cops dropped him in the wrong part of town, where he was robbed and beaten to within an inch of his life.’
      • ‘If not, how about frightening said child within an inch of his life?’
      • ‘No stripping to the waist and getting whipped to within an inch of my life?’
      • ‘Taxis aren't much better with drivers that leave you within an inch of your life.’
      • ‘Just for that, I'm going to email Fitz and tell him to beat you within an inch of your life with a wet noodle the next time he sees you..’
      • ‘But we are appealing to all parents to rethink smacking for the sake of the small number of children whose parents or carers beat and thrash them within an inch of their life.’
      • ‘Ideally, you would take your tormentor out to the car park and pistol-whip him within an inch of his life, but this is not always practical in an office environment.’
      • ‘And I'm not going to spare you, I'm going to pummel you within an inch of your life.’
      • ‘She battered him to within an inch of his life before passers-by rescued him.’
      • ‘She (the policewoman) came within an inch of her life and I regard her as fortunate at the end to survive.’

Origin

Late Old English ynce, from Latin uncia twelfth part from unus one (probably denoting a unit). Compare with ounce.

Pronunciation

inch

/in(t)SH/

Main definitions of inch in English

: inch1inch2

inch2

noun

Scottish
  • [in place names] A small island or a small area of high land.

    ‘Inchkeith’

Origin

Middle English: from Scottish Gaelic innis.

Pronunciation

inch

/in(t)SH/