from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A part of a church divided laterally from the nave by a row of pillars or columns.
  • n. A passageway between rows of seats, as in an auditorium or an airplane.
  • n. A passageway for inside traffic, as in a department store, warehouse, or supermarket.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A wing of a building, notably in a church separated from the nave proper by piers.
  • n. A clear path through rows of seating.
  • n. A clear corridor in a supermarket with shelves on both sides containing goods for sale.
  • n. Any path through an otherwise obstructed space.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A lateral division of a building, separated from the middle part, called the nave, by a row of columns or piers, which support the roof or an upper wall containing windows, called the clearstory wall.
  • n. Improperly used also for the have; -- as in the phrases, a church with three aisles, the middle aisle.
  • n. Also (perhaps from confusion with alley), a passage into which the pews of a church open.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • In heraldry, winged or having wings.
  • n. Properly, a lateral subdivision of a church, parallel to the nave, choir, or transept, from which it is divided by piers or columns, and often surmounted by a gallery.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. passageway between seating areas as in an auditorium or passenger vehicle or between areas of shelves of goods as in stores
  • n. a long narrow passage (as in a cave or woods)
  • n. part of a church divided laterally from the nave proper by rows of pillars or columns


Alteration (influenced by isle and French aile, wing) of Middle English ele, from Old French, wing of a building, from Latin āla.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Middle French aisle (Modern French aile) from Latin ala. (Wiktionary)



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  • Today's aisle/isle distinction is recent, and aisle owes its silent S to isle. Although ultimately from Latin ala "wing", the church word was from about 1600 confused with or merged with isle, and often so spelt. Some time in the 1700s the hybrid spelling aisle came into use, and seems to have become established by about 1800.

    In this same time period its use was extended from the side passages, the 'wings', to the central passage, the nave. Some complain that couples walking up the aisle are really walking up the nave, but the usage is long established now.

    January 24, 2011

  • An aisle is a narrow passageway, especially in a church or store; an isle is an island.
    Paul Brians. “Aisle/Isle”. Common Errors in English Usage

    January 24, 2011

  • Another pronunciation that is just unfair. See choir.

    January 9, 2011

  • But not quite with I'll?

    April 30, 2010

  • homophone with isle

    April 30, 2010