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From Middle English allowen, alowen, a borrowing from Anglo-Norman allouer, alouer, from Medieval Latin allaudāre, present active infinitive of allaudō, merged with alouer, from Medieval Latin allocō (to assign). The similarity with Old English ālīefan, German erlauben, both from Proto-Germanic *uzlaubijaną (to allow) is coincidental.


  • IPA(key): /əˈlaʊ/
  • enPR: ə-lou'
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -aʊ


allow (third-person singular simple present allows, present participle allowing, simple past and past participle allowed)

  1. (transitive) To grant, give, admit, accord, afford, or yield; to let one have.
    to allow a servant his liberty;  to allow a free passage;  to allow one day for rest
    • 2004, Constance Garnett (translator), Anton Chekhov (Russian author), “Ariadne”, in The Darling: and Other Stories:
      [] he needed a great deal of money, but his uncle only allowed him two thousand roubles a year, which was not enough, and for days together he would run about Moscow with his tongue out, as the saying is.
  2. (transitive) To acknowledge; to accept as true; to concede; to accede to an opinion.
    to allow a right;  to allow a claim;  to allow the truth of a proposition
  3. (transitive) To grant (something) as a deduction or an addition; especially to abate or deduct.
    To allow a sum for leakage.
  4. (transitive) To grant license to; to permit; to consent to.
    To allow a son to be absent.
    Smoking allowed only in designated areas.
    • 1992, Rudolf M[athias] Schuster, The Hepaticae and Anthocerotae of North America: East of the Hundredth Meridian, volume V, New York, N.Y.: Columbia University Press, →ISBN, page vii:
      With fresh material, taxonomic conclusions are leavened by recognition that the material examined reflects the site it occupied; a herbarium packet gives one only a small fraction of the data desirable for sound conclusions. Herbarium material does not, indeed, allow one to extrapolate safely: what you see is what you get []
  5. To not bar or obstruct.
    Although I don't consent to their holding such meetings, I will allow them for the time being.
    • 2013 July 26, Leo Hickman, “How algorithms rule the world”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 189, number 7, page 26:
      The use of algorithms in policing is one example of their increasing influence on our lives. And, as their ubiquity spreads, so too does the debate around whether we should allow ourselves to become so reliant on them – and who, if anyone, is policing their use.
  6. (intransitive) To acknowledge or concede.
    • 2000, George RR Martin, A Storm of Swords, Bantam (2011), page 154:
      Half the night passed before the wench allowed that it might be safe to stop.
  7. (transitive) To take into account by making an allowance.
    When calculating a budget for a construction project, always allow for contingencies.
  8. (transitive) To render physically possible.
    • 1824, Washington Irving, The Devil and Tom Walker:
      The inlet allowed a facility to bring the money in a boat secretly and at night to the very foot of the hill.
    • 2013 June 1, “Ideas coming down the track”, in The Economist, volume 407, number 8838, page 13 (Technology Quarterly):
      A “moving platform” scheme [] is more technologically ambitious than maglev trains even though it relies on conventional rails. Local trains would use side-by-side rails to roll alongside intercity trains and allow passengers to switch trains by stepping through docking bays.
  9. (transitive, obsolete) To praise; to approve of; hence, to sanction.
    • #* (Can we date this quote by Bible and provide title, author's full name, and other details?), Luke xi. 48
      Ye allow the deeds of your fathers.
    • 1842, Thomas Fuller, Church History of Britain:
      We commend his pains, condemn his pride, allow his life, approve his learning.
  10. (obsolete) To sanction; to invest; to entrust.
    • 1623, William Shakespeare, The Life of Timon of Athens:
      Therefore so please thee to return with us,
      And of our Athens—thine and ours—to take
      The captainship, thou shalt be met with thanks,
      Allow'd with absolute power, and thy good name
      Live with authority. So soon we shall drive back
      Of Alcibiades the approaches wild,
      Who, like a boar too savage, doth root up
      His country's peace.
  11. (transitive, obsolete) To like; to be suited or pleased with.
    • #* (Can we date this quote by Massinger and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      How allow you the model of these clothes?


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