aisle

Definitions

General English

Construction

  • A long passageway between sections of seats.

Marketing

  • noun a space or passageway between the shelves of products on display in a supermarket

Travel

  • noun a gap between rows of seats, where people may walk

Origin & History of “aisle”

The original English form of this word was ele. It was borrowed from Old French, which in turn took it from Latin āla ‘wing’ (the modern French form of the word, aile, has a diminutive form, aileron ‘movable control surface on an aircraft’s wing’ (20th c.), which has been acquired by English). Besides meaning literally ‘bird’s wing’, āla was used metaphorically for ‘wing of a building’, which was the source of its original meaning in English, the ‘sides of the nave of a church’. The Latin word comes from an unrecorded *acsla, which is one of a complex web of ‘turning’ words that include Latin axis, Greek axon ‘axis’, Latin axilla ‘armpit’ (whence English axillary and axil), and English axle.

The notion of an aisle as a detached, separate part of a building led to an association with isle and island which eventually affected middle English ele’s spelling. From the 16th to the 18th century the word was usually spelled ile or isle. A further complication entered the picture in the 18th century in the form of French aile, which took the spelling on to today’s settled form, aisle.
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