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a walkway between or along sections of seats in a theater, classroom, or the like.

a longitudinal division of an interior area, as in a church, separated from the main area by an arcade or the like.
any of the longitudinal divisions of a church or the like.

in the aisles, (of an audience) convulsed with laughter.
Contemporary Examples

Even the audience for Ice Age now seems ominous, with all the kids running up and down the aisles.
The Aurora Shooting Made One Prominent Hollywood Producer Too Scared to Go to The Multiplex Rick Schwartz August 25, 2012

But in this theater, they are still only second-class citizens, waiting in the aisles of history.
Palestinians Cast a U.N. Vote, Move Closer to State Recognition Matt Surrusco November 24, 2013

Models moved down into the audience, working the aisles at a busy pace while wearing these new incarnations of the Chanel look.
Chanel, Back to the Future Liza Foreman July 1, 2013

He goes on both sides of the aisles,” Jonathan says, “I love Robbie George.
The Pocket Pundit Samuel P. Jacobs February 12, 2010

Mrs. Bush strolled the aisles thanking friends and staffers.
Aboard the Bush Plane Mark McKinnon January 19, 2009

Historical Examples

There was much ornamental stone-work then done; aisles were added to the naves, and towers and spires built.
Our English Towns and Villages H. R. Wilton Hall

But in the dimness of these two aisles lurks the spirit of the wilds.
The Forest Stewart Edward White

Those which are perceived at the extremities of the two aisles are more particularly esteemed.
Rouen, It’s History and Monuments Thodore Licquet

This is a building divided into a nave and aisles and with a vestibule.
Architecture Thomas Roger Smith

The two east windows of the aisles are similar to the others.
Bell’s Cathedrals: The Cathedral Church of Lincoln A. F. Kendrick

a passageway separating seating areas in a theatre, church, etc; gangway
a lateral division in a church flanking the nave or chancel
(informal) rolling in the aisles, (of an audience) overcome with laughter

late 14c., ele, “lateral division of a church (usually separated by a row of pillars), from Old French ele “wing (of a bird or an army), side of a ship” (12c., Modern French aile), from Latin ala, related to axilla “wing, upper arm, armpit; wing of an army,” from PIE *aks- “axis” (see axis), via a suffixed form *aks-la-. The root meaning in “turning” connects it with axle and axis.

Confused 15c. with unrelated ile “island” (perhaps from notion of a “detached” part of a church), and so it took an -s- when isle did, c.1700; by 1750 it had acquired an a-, on the model of French cognate aile. The word also was confused with alley, which gave it the sense of “passage between rows of pews or seats” (1731), which was thence extended to railway cars, theaters, etc.

Related Terms

lay them in the aisles


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