I just used the phrase "narrow wall", and it occurred to me that, even though my meaning was clear, the word "narrow" usually refers to width and not to depth. Are there words like "tall" and "short" for height and "wide" and "narrow" for width that describe the extent of depth specifically? I'm aware of "shallow" and "deep", but, at least in my mind, those apply only to a different sense of the word "depth".

  • This is a very complex subject. Before being more specific, take a look at Fillmore's Deixis Lectures (especially the first two); they're clear and interesting, if technical. – John Lawler Oct 18 '18 at 20:55
  • Depth does tend to be confusing, because we think of it as a vertical component for water (or things we're above, like a ditch, or below, like the sky), whereas in most other circumstances it refers to the horizontal plane in the direction away from the viewer. So "tall/short" and "wide/narrow" describe what we can see of an object front-on, while "deep/shallow" applies from a side-on perspective. – Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica Oct 18 '18 at 22:59

I think you're looking for thick and thin. In fact, the Oxford Dictionaries uses your exact example for one of its sample sentences:



  1. With opposite sides or surfaces that are far or relatively far apart.

    ‘thick slices of bread’
    ‘thick metal cables’
    ‘the walls are 5 feet thick’




  1. With opposite surfaces or sides that are close or relatively close together.

    ‘thin slices of bread’
    ‘a thin line of paint’

  • 1
    Thanks! Something about the phrase "thin wall" makes me uncomfortable within this specific context (maybe a connotation of weakness), but this was exactly what I was seeking. But I believe these words should work for this concept, and indeed we use the phrase "thin walls" not uncommonly. – Cameron Mosley Oct 18 '18 at 21:10

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