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[nahr-theks] /ˈnɑr θɛks/
noun, Architecture
an enclosed passage between the main entrance and the nave of a church.
Origin of narthex
1665-75; < Late Greek nárthēx, Greek: giant fennel
Related forms
[nahr-thee-kuh l] /nɑrˈθi kəl/ (Show IPA),
adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for narthex
  • 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.
  • The narthex and present vestry also date from this renovation.
  • The purpose of this revised site plan is to add a narthex and columbarium to the existing sanctuary.
  • Many student performances are displayed on the overhead televisions located in the office, cafeteria and church narthex.
British Dictionary definitions for narthex


a portico at the west end of a basilica or church, esp one that is at right angles to the nave
a rectangular entrance hall between the porch and nave of a church
Word Origin
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 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for narthex

"porch at the west end of early churches" (used by penitents not admitted to the body of the church), 1670s, from Late Greek narthex, in classical Greek "giant fennel," of unknown origin. The architectural feature allegedly so called from fancied resemblance of porch to a hollow stem. The word also was used in Greek to mean "a small case for unguents, etc." According to Hesiod ("Theogeny"), Prometheus conveyed fire from Heaven to Earth in hollow fennel stalks. Related: Narthecal.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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