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The following statistics are based on the British National Corpus, so they are representative for the British English.

Distribution of usage frequency for the most common synonyms of the noun bow:


Distribution of usage frequency for the most common synonyms of the verb bow:


Definition of bow

What does bow mean?


  1. a knot with two loops and loose ends; used to tie shoelaces
    • synonym of bow: bowknot
    • more generic word: knot = any of various fastenings formed by looping and tying a rope (or cord) upon itself or to another rope or to another object
  2. a slightly curved piece of resilient wood with taut horsehair strands; used in playing certain stringed instruments
    • more generic word: stick = an implement consisting of a length of wood
    • more specific terms: fiddlestick / violin bow = a bow used in playing the violin
  3. front part of a vessel or aircraft
    • example: he pointed the bow of the boat toward the finish line
    • synonyms of bow: fore / prow / stem
    • more generic word: front = the side that is seen or that goes first
    • part of: vessel / watercraft = a craft designed for water transportation
  4. a weapon for shooting arrows, composed of a curved piece of resilient wood with a taut cord to propel the arrow
    • more generic terms: arm / weapon / weapon system = any instrument or instrumentality used in fighting or hunting
    • more specific terms:
      • crossbow = a bow fixed transversely on a wooden stock grooved to direct the arrow
      • Cupid's bow = a curved bow with reversed curve ends
      • handbow = a bow drawn by hand as distinguished from a crossbow
      • longbow = a powerful wooden bow drawn by hand; usually 5-6 feet long
    • part of: bow and arrow = a weapon consisting of arrows and the bow to shoot them
    • parts:
      • bowstring = the string of an archer's bow
      • limb = either of the two halves of a bow from handle to tip
  5. something curved in shape
    • synonym of bow: arc
    • more generic terms: curve / curved shape = the trace of a point whose direction of motion changes
    • more specific word: rainbow = an arc of colored light in the sky caused by refraction of the sun's rays by rain
  6. bending the head or body or knee as a sign of reverence or submission or shame or greeting
    • synonyms of bow: bowing / obeisance
    • more generic words: reverence = an act showing respect; gesture / motion = the use of movements (especially of the hands) to communicate familiar or prearranged signals
    • more specific words:
      • genuflection / genuflexion = the act of bending the knees in worship or reverence
      • kowtow / kotow = a former Chinese custom of touching the ground with the forehead as a sign of respect or submission
      • scraping / scrape = a deep bow with the foot drawn backwards
      • salaam = a deep bow
  7. an appearance by actors or performers at the end of the concert or play in order to acknowledge the applause of the audience
  8. a decorative interlacing of ribbons
  9. a stroke with a curved piece of wood with taut horsehair strands that is used in playing stringed instruments
    • more generic word: stroke = a single complete movement
    • more specific words:
      • down-bow = a downward stroke from the heel to the tip of the bow
      • up-bow = an upward stroke from the tip to the heel of the bow


Bow is one of the top 1000 most common verbs in the English language.

  1. bend one's knee or body, or lower one's head
    • examples: He bowed before the King | She bowed her head in shame
    • synonym of bow: bow down
    • more generic words: gesticulate / gesture / motion = show, express or direct through movement
    • more specific words: congee / conge = perform a ceremonious bow
  2. yield to another's wish or opinion
  3. bend the head or the upper part of the body in a gesture of respect or greeting
    • example: He bowed before the King
    • more generic term: change posture = undergo a change in bodily posture
    • more specific terms:
      • take a bow = acknowledge applause by inclining the head, as of an artist after a performance
      • curtsey / curtsy = bend the knees in a gesture of respectful greeting
      • genuflect / kowtow / scrape = bend the knees and bow in a servile manner
      • genuflect = bend the knees and bow in church or before a religious superior or image
  4. bend one's back forward from the waist on down
  5. play on a stringed instrument with a bow
    • domain: music
    • more generic word: play = play on an instrument

Alternative definition


  1. A weapon made of a curved piece of wood or other flexible material whose ends are connected by a string, used for shooting arrows.
  2. A curved bend in a rod or planar surface, or in a linear formation such as a river (see oxbow).
  3. A rod with horsehair (or an artificial substitute) stretched between the ends, used for playing various stringed musical instruments.
  4. A stringed instrument, similar to the item described above.
  5. A type of knot with two loops, used to tie together two cords such as shoelaces or apron strings, and frequently used as decoration, such as in gift-wrapping.
  6. A gesture, usually showing respect, made by bending forward at the waist.
  7. A debut
  8. [nautical] The front of a boat or ship.


  1. To play music on (a stringed instrument) using a bow.
  2. [intransitive] To become bent or curved.
  3. [transitive] To make something bend or curve.
  4. [intransitive] To bend oneself as a gesture of respect or deference.
  5. [transitive, and, intransitive] To debut.
  6. [intransitive] To defer (to something).

Phrases with bow

Phrases starting with the word bow:

  1. bow leg
  2. bow out
  3. bow saw
  4. bow tie
  5. Bow Wow
  6. bow-tie
  7. bow-wow
  8. bow down
  9. bow legs
  10. bow wood
  11. Bow Shock

Phrases ending with the word bow:

  1. Up Bow
  2. up-bow
  3. Down Bow
  4. down-bow
  5. Brush Bow
  6. Dicky Bow
  7. mouth bow
  8. Pussy Bow
  9. Shaft Bow

View more phrases with the word bow in thesaurus!


  1. Bow is an area of London, England, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It is a built-up, mostly residential district located 4.6 miles east of Charing Cross, and is a part of the East End.
  2. Bow is a town in Merrimack County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 7,519 at the 2010 census.
  3. Bow is an unincorporated community in Skagit County, Washington. It is located near the towns of Bay View, Edison, Burlington, and Mount Vernon. Bow is included in the Mount Vernon-Anacortes, Washington Metropolitan Statistical Area.
  4. Bow is a village and civil parish in the Mid Devon district of Devon, England, about 8 miles west of Crediton. According to the 2001 census it had a population of 1,093. There is an adjoining hamlet of Nymet Tracey which shares a church with Bow and much common history.
  5. Bow is an unincorporated community in Cumberland County, Kentucky, United States. It lies along Route 90 southeast of the city of Burkesville, the county seat of Cumberland County. Its elevation is 607 feet.
  6. Bow a.k.a. Bartow Municipal Airport is a public use airport located four miles northeast of the central business district of Bartow, a city in Polk County, Florida, United States. It is owned by the Bartow Municipal Airport Development Authority.

There are other places with bow in their name, like Bow Creek, Bow Falls, Bow Island, Bow Valley, Broken Bow, Fiddle Bow, Bromley-by-Bow, Silver Bow County, Broken Bow Nebraska.


Bow is a fictional character in the animated television series She-Ra: Princess of Power. He is the only male human member of The Great Rebellion. In one episode he is referred to as the best archer in all of Etheria. He is famed for the accuracy of his shot.

There are other characters with bow in their name, like Clara Bow.


  1. The bow is a nautical term that refers to the forward part of the hull of a ship or boat, the point that is most forward when the vessel is underway. Both of the adjectives fore and forward mean towards the bow. The other end of the boat is called the stern.
  2. Bow: In music, a bow is moved across some part of a musical instrument, causing vibration which the instrument emits as sound. The vast majority of bows are used with string instruments, although some bows are used with musical saws and other bowed idiophones.
  3. Bow is a term which has multiple meanings within the sport of rowing. It is used to refer to a rower seated in a particular position and to one side of the boat.

Printed dictionaries and other books with definitions for bow

Click on a title to look inside that book (if available):

Google previewA Dictionary of Hallucinations (2009)

by Jan Dirk Blom

The eponym Ulloa's bow refers to the Spanish naval officer, explorer, and astronomer Antonio de Ulloa y de...

However, today Ulloa's bow is a common phenomenon seen by airline travellers looking down upon clouds opposite the Sun.

Google previewEncyclopaedia perthensis, or, Universal dictionary of the arts, sciences, literature, etc. : intended to supersede the use of other books of reference (1816)

Bow, or Drill-bow, among artificers, an instrument so called from its figure ; used by goldsmiths, gunsmiths, locksmiths, watchmakers, &c. for making a drill go. Among turners it is the name of a pole fixed to the ceiling, to which they fasten the  ...

Google previewLondon encyclopaedia; or, Universal dictionary of science, art, literature and practical mechanics (1829)

comprising a popular view of the present state of knowledge by Thomas Tegg

A warped bow, though strung with silken threads. And crooked arrowes, tipt with golden heads. Delight not archers, yet such uselesse toyes Be nt enough for buglers and for boyes. George Wither. Good folks take heed ; for here's a wanton  ...

Google previewA Dictionary of Sports (1835)

Or, Companion to the Field, the Forest, and the Riverside. Containing Explanations of Every Term Applicable to Racing, Shooting, Hunting, Fishing, Hawking, Archery, Etc. ... With Essays Upon All National Amusements by Harry Harewood (pseud.?)

BOW. An elastic instrument, bent in form of an arch by means of a string fastened to its two ends, used to shoot, or throw out, pointed weapons called arrows. It is the most ancient, and the most universal of weapons. It has been found to obtain  ...

Google previewThe domestic encyclopaedia (1802)

or, A dictionary of facts, and useful knowledge, comprehending a concise view of the latest discoveries, inventions, and improvements, chiefly applicable to rural and domestic enconomy ... by Anthony Florian Madinger Willich

BOW, a weapon made of wood, horn, or some other elastic substance, and bent into a curve, in which position it is kept by a string fastened to each end. The clastic power thus acquired, is such, that after bending, and unbending, an arrow is ...

Google previewThe American history and encyclopedia of music ... (1908)

by Janet M. Green, Josephine Thrall

The first horsehair bow was doubtless of this description. As years passed the curve gradually grew less, until the bowstick during the Twelfth Century became nearly straight.

Online dictionaries and encyclopedias with entries for bow

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Quotes about bow

I cannot teach you violence, as I do not myself believe in it. I can only teach you not to bow your heads before any one even at the cost of your life. (Mahatma Gandhi)
more quotes about bow...

Scrabble value of B3O1W4

The value of this 3-letter word is 8 points. It is included in the first and second editions of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary.

Anagrams of BOW

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Other anagrams

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See also the blanagrams of bow!

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