from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A portico or lobby of an early Christian or Byzantine church or basilica, originally separated from the nave by a railing or screen.
  • noun An entrance hall leading to the nave of a church.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun architecture A western vestibule leading to the nave in some (especially Orthodox) Christian churches.


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

[Late Greek narthēx, from Greek, giant fennel (plant of the genus Ferula, whose hollow stem could be used to store items), case for storing unguents (perhaps used in Late Greek to describe narthexes in churches because these are sometimes narrow passages or because catechumens were anointed there before baptism); perhaps akin to Sanskrit naḍaḥ, reed.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Ancient Greek νάρθηξ (narthēks, "giant fennel"), later ‘casket’ (modern Greek νάρθηκας).


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  • While it is being called a narthex, that is precisely the one thing which the structure is not.

    Two Unfortunate and Unnecessary Cathedral Extensions in Australia 2009

  • A narthex is not a gathering space or overflow social hall; it is a place of transition from world outside to the heavenly reality within.

    Two Unfortunate and Unnecessary Cathedral Extensions in Australia 2009

  • The extension to the cathedral is being described as a narthex; it is, however, a large, three-story octagonal structure vaguely reminiscent of a baptistery and will include a basement crypt for the burial of archbishops and a top-story performance space seating 100 people; in between will be a gathering space for worshippers before and after mass.

    Two Unfortunate and Unnecessary Cathedral Extensions in Australia 2009

  • Beyond the narthex was the nave, answering to the court of the Jews, and appropriated to the body of worshippers.

    A Key to the Knowledge of Church History (Ancient) John Henry Blunt

  • The covered portion next the church was called the narthex and was the place for penitents.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 2: Assizes-Browne 1840-1916 1913

  • Properly speaking, the name should have ceased with the function and the so-called narthex of medieval churches and abbeys should justly be called a porch.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 10: Mass Music-Newman 1840-1916 1913

  • Outside the narthex was the atrium, an open court, having in the centre the remains of the labrum, or laver, where the people washed their hands and faces before entering the church.

    English Villages 1892

  • On occasion, Mr. Atkinson reaches too far for a word -- "narthex," "contumacious" and "nugacities," to name a few.

    A Terrible Slog Tom Nagorski 2007

  • ( "flags flap-flapped," "bellbuoys chiming-chime," and its variant "buoy-bells ting-tinging") is rather lazy, and her repeated use of the obscure, if deliciously archaic-sounding architectural term "narthex" (a word-lover's word for the entrance of a church) is distracting and somewhat troubling.


  • Always looking for new strategies to address the lack of community cohesiveness, parish leadership has introduced the use of nametags at worship, created picture directories each year, and set up a Welcome Table in the narthex staffed by a volunteer wearing a fluorescent pink “Ask Me!” button.

    American Grace Robert D. Putnam 2010


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  • Sounds like a cattle disease, but it's part of a church.

    October 1, 2007

  • "...across this front stretched what for want of the proper term Stephen thought of as a portico, a narthex, and in this narthex a monk in a worn old saffron robe was sitting by a brazier."

    —Patrick O'Brian, The Thirteen Gun Salute, 222

    March 5, 2008

  • giant fennel

    December 7, 2008

  • Waiter! My friend Basil's spice-funnel is all clogged up with saffron and fennel.

    Aaaaieee! Flee, flee! It's the attack of the killer anthropomorphic spice-aliens!!

    "The Fawlty Coriander" by F. Herbert and J. Cleese.

    December 7, 2008

  • sionnach said: "It's the attack of the killer anthropomorphic spice-aliens!!"

    Therefore, you will...GARFLE THE NARTHAX!

    December 13, 2008