Word similar to 'abreast' that describes walking in a line?
May 27, 2015 11:50 AM   Subscribe

Walking 'abreast' means walking side-by-side. What equivalent word means walking single-file?

My brain is ticklish with the notion that there is a similar or similarly-used word, but I can't think of it!
posted by chudmonkey to Writing & Language (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by Alterscape at 11:51 AM on May 27, 2015

I think this would have to depend on your usage. If you're dealing with a column of troops marching down a road three abreast, for instance, the opposite would be ranks of troops charging across a field three deep. In general, I wouldn't really use "abreast" as a direct synonym for "side-by-side"; they aren't exactly drop-in replacements for each other. ("Walking three abreast" can't really be substituted with "walking three side-by-side", for instance.)
posted by fifthrider at 11:58 AM on May 27, 2015

If you're going for "walking abreast of each other", though, you could substitute "walking level with each other" in that circumstance.

And then there's the abstract use of "abreast of", in which the concept of being "level" or "equal" is stretched into the state of being up-to-date or fully informed. ("Keeping abreast of the situation.")
posted by fifthrider at 12:02 PM on May 27, 2015

Didn't you already find it? Isn't 'single-file' that word?
posted by crazy with stars at 12:15 PM on May 27, 2015 [18 favorites]

Perhaps the expression you seek is 'in tandem'.
posted by bertran at 12:15 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

What equivalent word means walking single-file?

If you want phrases:

In a row, side by side, alongside, level, beside each other, shoulder to shoulder are all synonyms for abreast. By analogy, in no particular order: in a column, in a line, front to back, behind one another, single file, in line ahead (a naval term), in tandem

If you want a single word:

columnwise, linearly, single-file (does a hyphenated word count?), queued
posted by jedicus at 12:18 PM on May 27, 2015

This isn't quite what you're looking for (I'm not sure that a word exists), but "severally" is the best I can think of.
posted by ClaireBear at 12:20 PM on May 27, 2015

Indian file, but it's probably not appropriate to use it. Or else in a crocodile, like little kids.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:30 PM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

In my youth, we said "indian file." Maybe it's no longer PC.
posted by SemiSalt at 12:34 PM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]



queing, lining


walking in succession


succeeding each other

walking in file

thesaurus entry (read about halfway down in the line beginning "File (?), v. t", and glance around the page generally)
posted by amtho at 1:04 PM on May 27, 2015

Queue sounds right to an American raised on Brit comedy.

File sounds right as a Murican!

Also apparently military http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File_%28formation%29
posted by Jacen at 1:13 PM on May 27, 2015

posted by AppleTurnover at 1:14 PM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

We used Indian-file all through my elementary schooling and probably highschool; as others note, it's probably not cool to say that now (although I slip up in my personal, everyday talk). Single-file sounds right to my ear.

(The preschoolers are encouraged to 'make a crocodile' in my neck of the woods, fyi.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 1:23 PM on May 27, 2015

Or just plain "in file".
posted by BWA at 2:17 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

"Rank and file" means "rows and columns" (of men arranged for marching), with "file" being "column." Single-file = one column of dudes one behind the next. When people are "filing past" (as a coffin to pay respects), that typically implies one at a time.

"Enfilade" means "in a line" when talking about marching (band or troop) formations, but I guess it can mean side-by-side or single-file. "Echelon" similarly. I don't think either of those is right, but just in case they jog your memory.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:39 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding crocodile! Though (metaphorical) crocodiles can be two abreast, sometimes.
posted by lokta at 3:33 PM on May 27, 2015

Best answer: Arow.
posted by jessicapierce at 4:45 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Can't think of a single word - I'd use Indian file or more likely single file.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:41 PM on May 27, 2015

(Indian file shouldn't raise eyebrows because unlike 'gypping' or 'indian giving' it's not at all pejorative, but single file is the safer version if that's an issue)
posted by Sebmojo at 5:42 PM on May 27, 2015

Doesn't really work for humans, but for animals,
posted by Rash at 10:54 PM on May 27, 2015

I think the Navy calls it "astern." "Single-file" is probably best, though.
posted by radicalawyer at 9:56 AM on May 28, 2015

Pejorative or not, Indian file is not cool. Stick with single-file or one of the other options.
posted by carrioncomfort at 11:25 AM on May 28, 2015

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