noun Architecture.
an enclosed passage between the main entrance and the nave of a church.

1665–75; < Late Greek nárthēx, Greek: giant fennel

narthecal [nahr-thee-kuhl] , adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
narthex (ˈnɑːθɛks)
1.  a portico at the west end of a basilica or church, esp one that is at right angles to the nave
2.  a rectangular entrance hall between the porch and nave of a church
[C17: via Latin from Medieval Greek: enclosed porch, enclosure (earlier: box), from Greek narthēx giant fennel, the stems of which were used to make boxes]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

"porch at the end of early churches" (used by penitents not admitted to the body of the church), 1673, from Late Gk. narthex, from Gk. narthex "giant fennel," of unknown origin. The architectural feature so called from fancied resemblance of porch to a hollow stem. The word also was used in Gk. to mean
"a small case for unguents, etc."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
In the room on the south end of the narthex, a stairway leads to the balcony
  above the narthex.
The chapel is entered through the narthex which contains a narrow stair to the
  rear gallery.
The original narthex and belfry have been rebuilt within the last ten years,
  constructed of reinforced concrete and plastered.
The interior is noteworthy for its shallow and narrow narthex, which opens
  directly into the sanctuary.
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