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inch 1

n. Abbr. in or in.
1. A unit of length in the US Customary and British Imperial systems, equal to 1/12 of a foot (2.54 centimeters). See Table at measurement.
2. A fall, as of rain or snow, sufficient to cover a surface to the depth of one inch.
3. A unit of atmospheric pressure that is equal to the pressure exerted by a one-inch column of mercury at the earth's surface at a temperature of 0°C.
4. A very small degree or amount: won't budge an inch.
intr. & tr.v. inched, inch·ing, inch·es
To move or cause to move slowly or by small degrees: inching along through stalled traffic; inched the chair forward.
every inch
In every respect; entirely: "Ay, every inch a king!" (Shakespeare).
inch by inch
Very gradually or slowly.
within an inch of
Almost to the point of: came within an inch of death.

[Middle English, from Old English ynce, from Latin ūncia, one twelfth of a unit; see oi-no- in Indo-European roots.]

inch 2

n. Scots
A small island.

[Middle English, from Scottish Gaelic innis, from Old Irish inis.]
References in classic literature ?
And so he inched her along up through terrors that had been discounted by training before she reached them, and therefore were not recognizable as terrors when she got to them.