Definition of both in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /bəʊθ/

predeterminer, determiner, & pronoun

Used for emphasis to refer to two people or things, regarded and identified together: [as predeterminer]: both his parents indulged him [as determiner]: she held on with both hands cars parked on both sides of the road [as pronoun]: a picture of both of us together he looked at them both
More example sentences
  • While he chanted and threw the water at both of us in equal turn, it focused my mind.
  • He tried to justify it all by saying he was trying to do the right thing and wanted to keep both of us happy.
  • It seems that Tanya still has both of the tapes I made for her and still plays them in the car.


Used before the first of two alternatives to emphasize that the statement being made applies to each (the other alternative being introduced by ‘and’): the film has won favour with both young and old studies of zebra finches, both in the wild and in captivity
More example sentences
  • The story is full both of the pain of such suffering and of pride in the martyrs for their faith.
  • These days enable both parents and children to get a feel of what a school might be like.
  • What needs to be emphasised is that it refers to both self poisoning and self injury.


When both is used in constructions with and, the structures following ‘both’ and ‘and’ should be symmetrical. Thus, studies of zebra finches, both in the wild and in captivity is better than, for example, studies of zebra finches, both in the wild and captivity. In the second example, the symmetry of ‘in the wild’ and ‘in captivity’ has been lost. Other examples: her article is detrimental both to understanding and to peace (not her article is detrimental to both understanding and to peace).


have it both ways

Benefit from two incompatible ways of thinking or behaving: countries cannot have it both ways: the cost of a cleaner environment may sometimes be fewer jobs
More example sentences
  • They were clever and funny, and succeeded in having it both ways - appealing to cheesecake instincts while parodying them at the same time.
  • He was trying to have it both ways, being an administration player one day and an outside critic the next.
  • We can't have it both ways: you can't have the lowest income taxes in Europe, the best hospitals and schools and cheap petrol too.


Middle English: from Old Norse báthir.

Words that rhyme with both

growth, loath, oath, quoth, sloth, Thoth, troth

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: both

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.