1 [inch]
a unit of length, 1/12 (0.0833) foot, equivalent to 2.54 centimeters.
a very small amount of anything; narrow margin: to win by an inch; to avert disaster by an inch.
verb (used with object), verb (used without object)
to move by inches or small degrees: We inched our way along the road.
by inches,
narrowly; by a narrow margin: escaped by inches.
Also, inch by inch. by small degrees or stages; gradually: The miners worked their way through the narrow shaft inch by inch.
every inch, in every respect; completely: That horse is every inch a thoroughbred.
within an inch of, nearly; close to: He came within an inch of getting killed in the crash.

before 1000; Middle English; Old English ynce < Latin uncia twelfth part, inch, ounce. See ounce1 Unabridged


2 [inch]
noun Scot.
a small island near the seacoast.

1375–1425; late Middle English < Scots Gaelic innse, genitive of innis island, Old Irish inis, cognate with Welsh ynys Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
inch1 (ɪntʃ)
1.  a unit of length equal to one twelfth of a foot or 0.0254 metre
2.  meteorol
 a.  an amount of precipitation that would cover a surface with water one inch deep: five inches of rain fell in January
 b.  a unit of pressure equal to a mercury column one inch high in a barometer
3.  a very small distance, degree, or amount
4.  every inch in every way; completely: he was every inch an aristocrat
5.  inch by inch gradually; little by little
6.  within an inch of very close to
vb (foll by out)
7.  to move or be moved very slowly or in very small steps: the car inched forward
8.  to defeat (someone) by a very small margin
[Old English ynce, from Latin uncia twelfth part; see ounce1]

inch2 (ɪntʃ)
(Scot), (Irish) a small island
[C15: from Gaelic innis island; compare Welsh ynys]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

"linear measure, one-twelfth of a foot," late O.E. ynce, M.E. unche (current spelling c.1300), from L. uncia "a twelfth part," from root of unus "one;" an early borrowing from L., not found in any other Gmc. language. Transf. and fig. sense of "a very small amount" is attested from c.1350. The verb
meaning "move little by little" is first recorded 1599, from the noun. Inchworm first recorded 1861. For phrase give him an inch ... see ell.

"small Scottish island," early 15c., from Gael. innis (gen. innse) "island, land by a river."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
inch   (ĭnch)  Pronunciation Key 
A unit of length in the US Customary System equal to 1/12 of a foot (2.54 centimeters). See Table at measurement.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


In addition to the idioms beginning with inch, also see by inches; every inch; give an inch; within an ace (inch) of.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
For example, one-tenth of an inch of rainfall would actually fill an inch of
  the measuring tube.
Each was determined not to allow the other an inch of cheating-room.
The plastic in the seat is three-sixteenths of an inch thick.
Density--the number of knots per inch--is less important to the quality of a
  wool-on-wool carpet.
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