Date: 1200-1300
Origin: Partly from Old French ligne, from Latin linea, from linum 'flax'; partly from Old English line


1 noun
line1 S1 W1

on paper/on the ground

[countable] a long thin mark on a piece of paper, the ground, or another surface:
Draw a straight line across the top of the page.
Sign your name on the dotted line (=line made up of a series of dots).
The edges of the pitch are marked by white lines.
The goalkeeper just managed to stop the ball going over the line.
He raced towards the finishing line.

between two areas

[countable] an imaginary line on the surface of the earth, for example showing where one country or area of land stops and another begins
county/state line American English
He was born in a small town just across the state line.
line of latitude/longitude
They were still travelling along the same line of longitude.
International Date Line

of people/things

a) a row of people or things next to each other
line of
There was a line of fir trees on either side of the road.
The four men were standing in a line on the other side of the table.
A couple of the posts were out of line (=not in a straight row).
b) especially American English a row of people, cars etc that are waiting one behind the other [= queue] British English
I looked in despair at the long line in front of the ticket office.
line of
I joined the line of vehicles waiting to get into the car park.
The kids were standing in line waiting for their teacher.
The woman next in line began to mutter to herself.
He tried to cut in line (=go in front of other people who are waiting).


[countable] the direction or imaginary line along which something travels between two places:
Light travels in a straight line.
A boat came into my line of vision (=direction I was looking in).
line of fire/attack/movement etc (=the direction in which someone shoots, attacks, moves etc)
I was directly in the animal's line of attack.
They knew they needed to block their enemy's supply lines (=direction used for carrying supplies of food etc).

on your face

[countable] a line on the skin of someone's face [↪ wrinkle]:
She frowned, and deep lines appeared between her eyebrows.
There were fine lines around her eyes.
No one can avoid lines and wrinkles as they get older.


[countable]TCT a telephone wire or connection:
I'm sorry, the line is busy (=someone is already using it).
There seems to be a fault on the line.
There was a click, then the line went dead (=suddenly stopped working completely).
Henry is on the line (=on the phone) from New York.
I got on the line to (=phoned) the hospital as soon as I heard about the accident.
I wished he would just get off the line.
I'm sorry, it's a bad line and I can't hear you.
Hold the line (=wait on the phone), please, and I'll put you through to our sales department.
Do you have a separate line for your modem?

for trains

[countable]TTT a track that a train travels along:
We were delayed because of a problem further along the line.
When you get to central London, take the Victoria Line to Finsbury Park.
railway line BrE; railroad line American English
The trail follows a disused railroad line along the edge of the valley.

between two types of thing

[countable usually singular] the point at which one type of thing can be considered to be something else or at which it becomes a particular thing
line between
There is a fine line between superstition and religion.
The dividing line between luxuries and necessities is constantly changing.
Sometimes he found it hard to draw the line between work and pleasure.
Her remarks did not quite cross the line into rudeness.
Large numbers of families are living on or near the poverty line (=the point at which people are considered to be very poor).


[countable usually plural] the outer shape of something long or tall:
She was wearing a loose dress which softened the lines of her body.
a modern building with clean, elegant lines.


a) a line of written words, for example in a poem or a document:
He quoted a few lines from Shakespeare.
Scroll down to line 29.
b) a remark:
He liked to introduce himself with a witty opening line.
This was one of his favourite chat-up lines (=remark for impressing someone you want to attract).
c) [usually plural] words that someone has to learn and say as part of a play or performance:
Paul often messed up his lines.
It always took me ages to learn my lines.


[singular] an opinion or attitude, especially one that someone states publicly and that influences their actions
line on
I can't agree with the government's line on immigration.
Journalists are often too willing to accept the official line (=the opinion that a government states officially).
He found it hard to accept the party line (=the official opinion of a political party) on every issue.
take a tough/firm/hard line on something
The school takes a very tough line on drugs.

➔ toe the line

at toe2

way of doing something

[countable] a particular way of doing something or of thinking about something
line of argument/reasoning/inquiry etc
It seemed useless to pursue this line of questioning.
Opposition parties soon realized they would have to try a different line of attack.
The police are following several different lines of enquiry.
We were both thinking along the same lines (=in the same way).
In South Africa, the press developed along very different lines (=in a very different way).
More groups will now be set up on these lines (=this way).
The company's rapid success means it's definitely on the right lines (=doing something the right way).

series of events

[countable usually singular] a series of events that follow each other
line of
This is the latest in a long line of political scandals.

in a war

[countable]PM the edge of an area that is controlled by an army, where soldiers stay and try to prevent their enemy from moving forward:
They finally broke through the German line.
young soldiers who were sent to the front line to fight
One regiment was trapped behind enemy lines.
Reinforcements were available just behind the lines.

in a company/organization

[countable] a series of levels of authority within an organization:
Decisions are taken by senior officers and fed down through the line of command to the ordinary soldiers.
There should be more direct discussion between managers and workers lower down the line.
line manager

of rope/wire

[countable]DHC a piece of strong string, rope, or wire used for a particular purpose:
She hung the clothes out on the washing line (=line for hanging wet clothes on to dry).
The fishing line (=line for catching fish) snapped and the fish got away.


[countable]BBT a type of goods for sale in a shop:
The company has just launched a new line of small, low-priced computers.

along these/those lines

also along the lines of something similar to something else:
We usually start with general questions along the lines of, 'How do you feel?'
They're trying to organize a trip to the beach or something along those lines.

along religious/ethnic/party etc lines

if people divide along religious, party etc lines they divide according to the religion, political party, or other group they belong to:
The committee was split along party lines.
The community remains divided along religious lines.

on line

a) using a computer to get information or to communicate with people:
You can book tickets on line.
Most of our sales staff now work on line.
b) working properly as planned:
a new nuclear reactor which should be on line by 2005
If there is a power failure, the emergency generators should come on line within 15 minutes.

drop somebody a line

informal to write a short letter or email to someone:
Drop me a line and let me know how you're getting on.

don't give me that line

spoken used to say that you do not believe someone's excuse:
I know for a fact you weren't sick yesterday, so don't give me that line.

fall into line/bring somebody into line

informal to start to do what someone else wants you to do, or to make someone do this:
Now that France and Germany have signed up, other countries will soon fall into line.
The few party rebels were soon brought into line.

in line with something

if something changes in line with something else, it changes in the same way and at the same rate as it:
Pensions will be increased in line with inflation.

bring something into line with something

to change a system so that it works according to a particular set of rules, laws etc:
UK immigration procedures will have to be changed to bring them into line with the latest European ruling.

be out of line

a) to say or do something that is not acceptable in a particular situation:
You just keep quiet! You're way out of line.
b) to not obey someone, or to do something that you should not do
get/step put of line
Anybody who steps out of line will be in deep trouble.

be in line for something/be in line to do something

to be very likely to get or be given something:
I should be in line for promotion soon.
first/second/next etc in line for
He must be first in line for the editor's job.

be first/second/next etc in line to the throne

to be the person who has a right to become a future king or queen:
As the oldest son, he was next in line to the throne.

be on the line

if something important is on the line, there is a risk that you might lose it or something bad could happen to it:
From now on, all our jobs are on the line.
She knew that her whole future was on the line.
put yourself/your neck on the line (for somebody) (=risk something bad happening to you)
I've already put myself on the line for you once, and I'm not going to do it again.

be in somebody's line

informal to be the type of thing that someone is interested in or good at:
Acting's not really in my line, I'm afraid.

get a line on somebody/something

informal especially American English to get information about someone or something:
We need to get some kind of a line on these guys.

somewhere along the line

informal at some time during an activity or period of time:
Somewhere along the line, Errol seemed to have lost interest in her.

down the line

informal later, after an activity or situation has been continuing for a period of time:
There may be more costs further down the line.
Now, three years down the line, we're beginning to see the problems with the treatment.

in the line of duty

happening or done as part of your job:
firefighters dying in the line of duty

be in the firing line/in the line of fire

a) to be one of the people who could be criticized or blamed for something:
As one of the President's chief advisers, he's bound to be in the firing line.
b) PM to be in a place where a bullet etc might hit you:
A couple of civilians were caught in the firing line.



[plural] British EnglishSES a punishment given to school children that consists of writing the same thing a lot of times:
He got 50 lines for being cheeky to a teacher.


[singular] your family, considered as the people you are related to who lived before you and the people who will live after you:
She comes from a long line of actors.
It looks as if Joe might be the last of the line (=the last in his family).
the male/female line
This particular gene is passed down through the male line.
line of succession (=the system by which an important position or property is passed from a parent to their children, and then to their children etc)
Henry the Eighth wanted a male heir to ensure the Tudor line of succession.


[countable usually singular] the type of work someone does
line of work/business
What line of business is he in?
in the building/retail etc line
She's keen to do something in the fashion line.


[countable]TT a company that provides transport for moving goods by sea, air, road etc:
He runs a transatlantic shipping line.


[countable] informalMDD an amount of an illegal drug in powder form, arranged in a line so it can be breathed in through the nose

➔ draw the line at

at draw1 (16)

; ➔ draw a line (between something)

at draw1 (15)

; ➔ where do you draw the line?

at draw1 (17)

; ➔ draw a line under something

at draw1 (18)

➔ hard line

at hard1 (21)

➔ hook, line and sinker

at hook1 (9)

➔ lay something on the line

at lay2 (18)
picket line

➔ the poverty line/level

at poverty (2)

➔ read between the lines

at read1 (14)

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