According to Dictionary.com, the word inches or inch can be defined as the following:
Inch [ inch ]
1. a unit of length, 1/12 (0.0833) foot, equivalent to 2.54 centimeters.
2. a very small amount of anything; narrow margin.
verb (used with or without object)
1. to move by inches or small degrees.
Synonyms for Inches
● one thirty-sixth of a yard
The History of the Word
There is significant history behind the word inch. The modern definition of the word, as “a linear measure that is one-twelfth of a foot,” is derived from the late Old English ynce and Middle English unche, which dated from around the 1300’s. These English words are derived from the Latin word uncia, or “a twelfth of a part,” and from unus, which means “one.” Early Anglo-Saxons borrowed the word from Latin; it is not found in any other Germanic language. The transferred and figurative use of the word as “a very small amount or quantity” dates from the mid-fourteenth century. It was first used as a unit to measure rainfall in 1845. The use of the word as “in every respect” comes from the early fifteenth century.
In Scotland, the word inch was used to refer to a small Scottish island in the early fifteenth century. This sense of the word was derived from the Caelic word inne (genitive form innse), which means “island.” It also comes from the Celtic word inissi, which is the source of the Old Irish word inis, Welsh word ynys, and Breton word enez. Use as a verb, meaning “to move little by little,” came from the 1590’s. The meaning “to drive by small degrees or force by small degrees” comes from the 1660’s.
When to Use the Abbreviations
The abbreviation ″, also called double prime, is used after numbers. You should use straight quotes, rather than curly quotes.
When measuring a person’s height, write it as 5’7″, using a single prime for feet and a double prime for inches additional to feet.
This abbreviation is not used in common prose and is rarely written in formal documents, but the abbreviation does appear in technical writing, note-taking, and online text communication.
The abbreviation in. is much more appropriate for other forms of writing, especially where a measurement in feet is not mentioned. Wherever possible, the full word inch or inches should be used in formal writing. For academic papers, research papers, official documents, studies, formulas, etc., use the abbreviation in. with or without punctuation. It is more common to see the abbreviation written without a period. Regardless, both abbreviations are acceptable.
Examples of the Word and Abbreviation in Context
In the United States, they use the older imperial system in which objects are measured in feet, inches, and pounds. Cubic centimeters, micrometers, nanometers, metric tons, and micrograms are not English units, though, they’re metric.
Some units of measurement include centimeters, inches, pounds, and ounces. This is very different in many ways from the metric system.
The metric unit commonly used to measure smaller distances would be centimeters (cm); meanwhile, in the United States, inches (in) would be used. The metric system and the imperial system differ quite significantly.
“What does this quotation mark mean?” asked Amber. “It comes after a number and I don’t quite understand.” “Oh, that refers to inches,” said Bob, pointing at her textbook, “You’re looking at the height of a person, which is 6’1″. The first apostrophe indicates feet and the second symbol means inches.”
Some countries measure things in milliliters and centimeters, while others measure in ounces and inches. I would usually use inches when measuring a small distance.
The earthworm inches down the driveway.
I needed to know the number of microorganisms per sq. in. to determine whether the culture was growing and thriving.
My hair had grown so much in just a year with this fantastic all-natural product I was using. The packaging promised, “Grow 10 in. of hair in just five weeks!”
Kevin Miller is a growth marketer with an extensive background in Search Engine Optimization, paid acquisition and email marketing. He is also an online editor and writer based out of Los Angeles, CA. He studied at Georgetown University, worked at Google and became infatuated with English Grammar and for years has been diving into the language, demystifying the do's and don'ts for all who share the same passion! He can be found online here.