The north and south wings of a church. Latin,
ala (axilla, ascella), through the French,
aile, a wing. In German the nave of a church
is schiff, and the aisle
flügel (a wing). In some church
documents the aisles are called alleys
(walks), and hence the nave is still sometimes called the
“middle aisle” or alley. The choir of Lincoln Cathedral
used to be called the “Chanters' alley;” and Olden tells
us that when he came to be churchwarden, in 1638, he made the Puritans
“come up the middle alley on their knees to the raile.”
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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