1) For a carpenter, to bow or embow wood was to give it a curved shape.

c.1520 Radulpho Turret inbowyng tymber per iij dies, 18d, Ripon.

places Ripon
dates 1520

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2) To attach a bowed piece of wood to an animal to hinder it from breaking hedges.

1576 Robert Boultone to bowe his haucked stirk to prevent him breaking the hedges, Acomb.

places Acomb
dates 1576

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3) In Yorkshire documents ‘bow’ was the word most commonly used for the vaulted arch of a stone bridge.

References date from Elland’s three bowes or arches in 1579 and they are frequent in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A sudden thaw in York in 1564-5 caused the river Ouse to flood and it destroyed the bridge, overthrowing two bowes … and twelve houses standing upon the same. The contract of 1486 for Sheffield’s Lady’s Bridge contains the phrase: whych shall be made v archys embowed. In 1682, there were severall holes worne under the Litle Bowes att the ends of Cottingley Bridge, a reference there to the arched sluices in the causeways. The place-name evidence indicates that the term was in use from much earlier.

dates 1486 1564-1565 1579 1682

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Photo by Kreuzschnabel CC BY-SA 3.0