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a curved masonry construction for spanning an opening, consisting of a number of wedgelike stones, bricks, or the like, set with the narrower side toward the opening in such a way that forces on the arch are transmitted as vertical or oblique stresses on either side of the opening.
an upwardly curved construction, as of steel or timber functioning in the manner of a masonry arch.
a doorway, gateway, etc., having a curved head; an .
the curved head of an opening, as a doorway.

any overhead curvature resembling an arch.
something bowed or curved; any bowlike part:
the arch of the foot.
a device inserted in or built into shoes for supporting the arch of the foot.
a dam construction having the form of a barrel vault running vertically with its convex face toward the impounded water.

a chamber or opening in a glassmaking furnace.

to cover with a vault, or span with an arch:
the rude bridge that arched the flood.
to throw or make into the shape of an arch or vault; curve:
The horse arched its neck.
to form an arch:
elms arching over the road.
Nautical, (def 14).
playfully roguish or mischievous:
an arch smile.
cunning; crafty; sly.
Obsolete. a person who is preeminent; a chief.
a combining form that represents the outcome of in words borrowed through Latin from Greek in the Old English period; it subsequently became a productive form added to nouns of any origin, which thus denote individuals or institutions directing or having authority over others of their class (archbishop; archdiocese; archpriest). More recently, arch-1, has developed the senses “principal” (archenemy; archrival) or “prototypical” and thus exemplary or extreme (archconservative); nouns so formed are almost always pejorative.
variant of before a vowel:
archangel; archenteron.
a combining form meaning “chief, leader, ruler,” used in the formation of compound words:
monarch; matriarch; heresiarch.
archive; archives.
Contemporary Examples

Tarantino has come to associate his arch, knowing, ironic Hollywood horror show with reality itself.
Tarantino’s Hollow Violence Lee Siegel August 23, 2009

arch competitor Volkswagen last year announced it will build a new assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Rick Santorum’s Ugly Appeal to Rural Voters Joel Kotkin March 15, 2012

Next in line is the arch- conservative Interior Minister Prince Nayif, who would alienate reformers and might precipitate unrest.
Why the Saudi Royals are Scared Bruce Riedel March 7, 2011

For his part, Newt Gingrich has clearly been honing his persona as condescending, arch, snide Big Thinker.
Rick Perry Unleashes His Inner Cowboy in Fox News Debate Michelle Cottle January 16, 2012

Legend has arch Naylor taking one look at her and shaking his silver head.
If Holden Caulfield Was a Swimmer Nicola Keegan July 16, 2009

Historical Examples

The arches look as if they had supplanted a sixth arch of the nave.
Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine Edward A. Freeman

When the window was new it must have been surmounted in the middle of the arch by an ornamental design.
The Dream Emile Zola

He edged his way to where an arch had given access to the kitchen garden of the inn.
The Red Cross Barge Marie Belloc Lowndes

Often and often have I been forced to smile at her arch turns upon me, when I could have beat her for them.
Clarissa, Volume 2 (of 9) Samuel Richardson

The tilting ring, suspended from the top of the arch, was not more than an inch in diameter.
The Pony Rider Boys in New Mexico Frank Gee Patchin

a curved structure, normally in the vertical plane, that spans an opening
Also called archway. a structure in the form of an arch that serves as a gateway
something curved like an arch

any of various parts or structures of the body having a curved or archlike outline, such as the transverse portion of the aorta (arch of the aorta) or the raised bony vault formed by the tarsal and metatarsal bones (arch of the foot)
one of the basic patterns of the human fingerprint, formed by several curved ridges one above the other Compare loop1 (sense 10a), whorl (sense 3)

(transitive) to span (an opening) with an arch
to form or cause to form an arch or a curve resembling that of an arch: the cat arched its back
(transitive) to span or extend over: the bridge arched the flooded stream
(prenominal) chief; principal; leading: his arch rival
(prenominal) very experienced; expert: an arch criminal
knowing or superior
playfully or affectedly roguish or mischievous
combining form
chief; principal; of highest rank: archangel, archbishop, archduke
eminent above all others of the same kind; extreme: archenemy, archfiend, archfool
combining form
leader; ruler; chief: patriarch, monarch, heresiarch

c.1300, from Old French arche “arch of a bridge” (12c.), from Latin arcus “a bow” (see arc). Replaced native bow (n.1). Originally architectural in English; transferred by early 15c. to anything having this form (eyebrows, etc.).

1540s, “chief, principal,” from prefix arch-; used in 12c. archangel, etc., but extended to so many derogatory uses (arch-rogue, arch-knave, etc.) that by mid-17c. it acquired a meaning of “roguish, mischievous,” since softened to “saucy.” Also found in archwife (late 14c.), variously defined as “a wife of a superior order” or “a dominating woman, virago.”

early 14c., “to form an arch” (implied in arched); c.1400, “to furnish with an arch,” from arch (n.). Related: Arching.

also archi-, word-forming element meaning “chief, principal; extreme, ultra; early, primitive,” from Latinized form of Greek arkh-, arkhi- “first, chief, primeval,” comb. form of arkhos “chief” (see archon).

word-forming element meaning “a ruler,” from Greek arkhos “leader, chief, ruler,” from arkhe “beginning, origin, first place” (see archon).

arch (ärch)
An organ or structure having a curved or bowlike appearance, especially either of two arched sections of the bony structure of the foot.

In architecture, a curved or pointed opening that spans a doorway, window, or other space.

Note: The form of arch used in building often serves to distinguish styles of architecture from one another. For example, Romanesque architecture usually employs a round arch, and Gothic architecture, a pointed arch.


an architectural term found only in Ezek. 40:16, 21, 22, 26, 29. There is no absolute proof that the Israelites employed arches in their buildings. The arch was employed in the building of the pyramids of Egypt. The oldest existing arch is at Thebes, and bears the date B.C. 1350. There are also still found the remains of an arch, known as Robinson’s Arch, of the bridge connecting Zion and Moriah. (See TYROPOEON VALLEY.)


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