line1 / līn/ • n. 1. a long, narrow mark or band: a row of closely spaced dots will look like a continuous line I can't draw a straight line. ∎ Math. a straight or curved continuous extent of length without breadth. ∎ a positioning or movement of a thing or things that creates or appears to follow such a line: her mouth set in an angry line the ball rose in a straight line. ∎ a furrow or wrinkle in the skin of the face or hands. ∎ a contour or outline considered as a feature of design or composition: crisp architectural lines the artist's use of clean line and color. ∎ (on a map or graph) a curve connecting all points having a specified common property. ∎ a line marking the starting or finishing point in a race. ∎ a line marked on a field or court that relates to the rules of a game or sport. ∎ Football the line of scrimmage. ∎ (the Line) the equator. ∎ a notional limit or boundary: the issue of peace cut across class lines television blurs the line between news and entertainment. ∎ each of the very narrow horizontal sections forming a television picture. ∎ Physics a narrow range of the spectrum noticeably brighter or darker than the adjacent parts. ∎ (the line) the level of the base of most letters, such as h and x, in printing and writing. ∎ [as adj.] Printing & Comput. denoting an illustration or graphic consisting of lines and solid areas, with no gradation of tone: a line block line art. ∎ each of (usually five) horizontal lines forming a stave in musical notation. ∎ a sequence of notes or tones forming an instrumental or vocal melody: a powerful melodic line. ∎ a dose of a powdered narcotic or hallucinatory drug, esp. cocaine or heroin, laid out in a line.2. a length of cord, rope, wire, or other material serving a particular purpose: wring the clothes and hang them on the line a telephone line. ∎ one of a vessel’s mooring ropes. ∎ a telephone connection: she had a crank on the line. ∎ a railroad track. ∎ a branch or route of a railroad system: the Philadelphia to Baltimore line. ∎ a company that provides ships, aircraft, or buses on particular routes on a regular basis: a major shipping line.3. a horizontal row of written or printed words. ∎ a part of a poem forming one such row: each stanza has eight lines. ∎ (lines) the words of an actor's part in a play or film. ∎ a particularly noteworthy written or spoken sentence: his speech ended with a line about the failure of justice.4. a row of people or things: a line of acolytes proceeded down the aisle. ∎ a row or sequence of people or vehicles awaiting their turn to be attended to or to proceed. ∎ a connected series of people following one another in time (used esp. of several generations of a family): we follow the history of a family through the male line. ∎ (in football, hockey, etc.) a set of players in the forwardmost positions for offense or defense. ∎ Football one of the positions on the line of scrimmage. ∎ a series of related things: the bill is the latest in a long line of measures to protect society from criminals. ∎ a range of commercial goods: the company intends to hire more people and expand its product line. ∎ inf. a false or exaggerated account or story: he feeds me a line about this operation. ∎ the point spread for sports events on which bets may be made.5. an area or branch of activity: the stresses unique to their line of work. ∎ a direction, course, or channel: lines of communication he opened another line of attack. ∎ (lines) a manner of doing or thinking about something: you can't run a business on these lines the superintendent was thinking along the same lines. ∎ an agreed-upon approach; a policy: the official line is that there were no chemical attacks on allied troops.6. a connected series of military fieldworks or defenses facing an enemy force: raids behind enemy lines. ∎ an arrangement of soldiers or ships in a column or line formation; a line of battle. ∎ (the line) regular army regiments (as opposed to auxiliary forces or household troops).• v. [tr.] 1. stand or be positioned at intervals along: a processional route lined by people waving flags.2. [usu. as adj.] (lined) mark or cover with lines: a thin woman with a lined face lined paper.3. Baseball hit a line drive.PHRASES: above the line1. Finance denoting or relating to money spent on items of current expenditure.2. Bridge denoting bonus points and penalty points, which do not count toward the game.all (the way) down (or along) the line at every point or stage: the mistakes were caused by lack of care all down the line.along (or down) the line at a further, later, or unspecified point: I knew that somewhere down the line there would be an inquest.below the line1. Finance denoting or relating to money spent on items of capital expenditure.2. Bridge denoting points for tricks bid and won, which count toward the game.bring someone/something into line cause someone or something to conform: the change in the law will bring Britain into line with Europe.come down to the line (of a race) be closely fought right until the end.come into line conform: Britain has come into line with other Western democracies in giving the vote to its citizens living abroad.the end of the line the point at which further effort is unproductive or one can go no further.get a line on inf. learn something about.in line1. under control: that threat kept a lot of people in line.2. in a row waiting to proceed: I always peer at other people's shopping carts as we stand in line.in line for likely to receive: she might be in line for a cabinet post.in the line of duty while one is working (used mainly of police officers firefighters, or soldiers).in (or out of) line with in (or not in) alignment or accordance with: remuneration is in line with comparable international organizations.lay (or put) it on the line speak frankly. (draw) a line in the sand (state that one has reached) a point beyond which one will not go.line of communicationssee communication.line of credit an amount of credit extended to a borrower.line of fire the expected path of gunfire or a missile: residents within line of fire were evacuated from their homes.line of flight the route taken through the air.line of force an imaginary line that represents the strength and direction of a magnetic, gravitational, or electric field at any point.the line of least resistancesee resistance.line of march the route taken in marching.line of sight a straight line along which an observer has unobstructed vision: a building that obstructs our line of sight.line of vision the straight line along which an observer looks: Jimmy moved forward into Len's line of vision.on the line1. at serious risk: their careers were on the line.2. (of a picture in an exhibition) hung with its center about level with the spectator's eye.out of line inf. behaving in a way that breaks the rules or is considered disreputable or inappropriate: he had never stepped out of line with her before.PHRASAL VERBS: line out Baseball be put out by hitting a line drive that is caught.line something out transplant seedlings from beds into nursery lines, where they are grown before being moved to their permanent position.line someone/something up1. arrange a number of people or things in a straight row. ∎ (line up) (of a number of people or things) be arranged in this way: we would line up across the parade ground, shoulder to shoulder.2. have someone or something ready or prepared: have you got any work lined up?line2 • v. [tr.] cover the inside surface of (a container or garment) with a layer of different material: a basket lined with polyethylene. ∎ form a layer on the inside surface of (an area); cover as if with a lining: hundreds of telegrams lined the walls.PHRASES: line one's pockets make money, esp. by dishonest means.
LINE. In the linear tactics that dominated land warfare in western Europe in the eighteenth century, the term "line" denoted a row of soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder across the front of a formation. The formation might be two, three, or occasionally more lines deep, but its width was always greater than its depth, making it difficult to maneuver on the battlefield. The tactical value of the line was its ability to bring the maximum number of individual firearms to bear on the enemy without sacrificing too much of the compactness needed to retain command and control on a battlefield. The line won or lost the battle by the disciplined delivery of sustained volley fire. The term "column," on the other hand, denoted a formation whose front was narrow, but whose depth was relatively great; columns could maneuver more readily on the battlefield and had the capability of punching a hole through a line whose fire discipline was poor.
"Line" also came to mean an army's established, more or less permanent units. In the British army, the "line" meant the numbered units of infantry and cavalry that made up the bulk of the standing forces, not including the units of guards that made up the monarch's household establishment. In the American army, the term was used to distinguish between regiments authorized by Congress and raised for Continental service, and the state and militia units under the control of the state governments, thus making the terms "Continental Army" and "Continental Line" nearly synonymous. Beginning in 1777, nearly all Continental Army units were part of a state's "Line," as in the "Massachusetts Line" or the "Virginia Line." Most officers in both armies held a commission in the line, meaning they were members of the active combat arms; officers commissioned "on the staff" were part of a different hierarchy.
In naval warfare, a "line of battle" denoted a group of large wooden ships whose carriage guns were mounted in broadside, sailing stem to stern so as to bring their batteries to bear on a similarly armed and arranged group of enemy vessels sailing on a parallel or converging course. The pinnacle of naval tactics was to bring the maximum number of broadside guns to bear on the head of the enemy's line, thereby concentrating an artillery crossfire on a few ships that could not respond effectively because they could not fire their guns ahead. This maneuver was called "crossing the T." A "ship of the line [of battle]" designated a warship that was large enough to take part in the main action; in the eighteenth century this meant a warship carrying seventy-four or more heavy guns.
SEE ALSO Muskets and Musketry.
revised by Harold E. Selesky
draw the line at set a limit of what one is willing to do or accept.
up the line in military usage, to the battle-front (especially associated with the First World War).
See also hook, line, and sinker, read between the lines, the line of least resistance, ship of the line, the thin red line, toe the line.
1.. OE. līne rope, line, series, rule = MDu. līne (Du. lijn), OHG. līna (G. leine cord), ON. lína, prob. Gmc. — L. līnea;
2.. ME. li(g)ne — (O)F. ligne :- Rom. *linja L. līnea, orig. sb. use of fem. of līneus pert. to flax, f. līnum; see prec.
Hence line vb.2 tie with a line, etc. XIV; trace with a line XVI; bring into line XVII.
Hence line vb.1 apply a layer of material to the inside of (a garment). XIV. w. ref. to linen being used for the purpose.
a series or rank of objects or persons, usually of the same kind; a series of persons in chronological order, usually of family descent.
Examples: long line of ancestors, 1809; of authorities (legal), 1895; line of barriers; of blood royal, 1513; of bricks, 1557; of geese, 1802; of heroes, 1705; of trading posts, 1836; of type (printing), 1659.