28

Is there a single verb that conveys the idea of "just opening X a bit", "slightly opening" or "opening a gap"?

Examples

  • He ____ the window just so that a light breeze could come in.
  • The door was not totally closed. Someone had ____ it.

Remark

The option that I like the most so far is "tilt", but I see two drawbacks:

  • It conveys a vertical movement (it wouldn't apply to a door).
  • It could, especially to the eyes of non-fluent speakers, not be clear if the window/door is being opened or just its inclination is being changed.
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    Tilt sounds very wrong to this native US English speaker. "Tilt" means something like "put at a sideways angle". You could open a window by tilting it if it opened that way, but if it opened by sliding, it wouldn't make any sense. – stangdon Jul 9 '18 at 15:42
  • Related: How should I understand “She cracked open a door”? english.stackexchange.com/questions/58611/… – user070221 Jul 10 '18 at 5:02
  • According to Green’s Dictionary of Slang, to crack meaning to open has an old history: crack [late 16C+] to open, orig. of a bottle etc, meaning to have a drink; latterly to open anything, e.g. a door etc. - greensdictofslang.com/entry/stfhfzq – user070221 Jul 10 '18 at 12:04
98

Crack

  • to open a small amount

crack a window


He cracked the window just so that a light breeze could come in.

The door was not totally closed. Someone had cracked it open.


Per comments below, if you are in North America, saying "he cracked the window" is perfectly acceptable.

But in other places, saying he opened the window a crack or he cracked the window open would be clearer.

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    "Crack a window" to me sounds like you've broken it! I would however say "He opened the window a crack". – Muzer Jul 9 '18 at 16:00
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    @Muzer This seems to be an Americanism. I can't find anything similar to this in the English OED. There is the more usual noun version: the door opened a tiny crack and the phrase crack (open) a bottle but that's it. Edit: On the other hand the US version of the OED does list the meaning as does merriam-webster. Sounds weird to my ears too. – Voo Jul 9 '18 at 16:04
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    As an American, "crack the window" sounds fine and was my first thought. – Kevin Jul 9 '18 at 16:40
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    I usually hear it as "cracked open a window/door". "Cracked a window" would be ambiguous between "cracked open" and "broke" – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Jul 9 '18 at 16:55
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    To this speaker of NYC American English, "crack a window" sounds perfectly natural. "Crack open a window" sounds weird, like the speaker was not quite familiar with the idiom. "Crack the window" does not seem ambiguous to me unless there is no context - hearing "he crossed the room and cracked the window", I would always think that he opened the window, not that he broke the glass. – stangdon Jul 9 '18 at 20:01
21

Though not exactly a verb, the adjective/adverb ajar was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw your post:

If a door, window or other opening is ajar, it is slightly open.

For example:

We left the door ajar so that we could hear what they were saying.

You can easily turn it into a verb expression if you use it along with an appropriate verb: set something ajar or leave something ajar. Thanks TRiG in the comments section for this suggestion.

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    If you want a verb, try set ajar. – TRiG Jul 9 '18 at 16:36
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    Thank you for the recommendation, Michael. I think @rosslh's answer fits more my needs, so I marked it as the official answer, but ajar is an interesting fancy word to add to my vocabulary ;) – guest_user Jul 10 '18 at 7:19
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    @AndyT I've heard "left open a crack / left cracked open / left cracked" many times. In person, in books, in television and movies. – Aethenosity Jul 10 '18 at 15:06
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    @Aethenosity - Yep, those phrases all work. I think my main point still stands: the verb "to crack" means "to open something a small amount" and can't mean "to close something but not completely". For the closing you need the verb "to leave" with an adjective / past-participle. The secondary point of the choice of adjective: I agree with you that it can be "ajar" or "cracked open". – AndyT Jul 10 '18 at 15:13
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    In the US early days of cars that "talked to you", when you didn't get a car door completely closed (and latched), the car's voice would say, "Your door is ajar", and my friends and I would always say back (to the car), "No, my door is a door. It's just not latched." lol – geneSummons Jul 10 '18 at 18:01
4

Nudge

He nudged the door open.

Would you nudge that window open?

3

Pull it to/Close it to

is a perhaps rare, maybe regional way of saying "Close the door so that it's resting to the frame, but not shut all the way". As in "Pull it to [the frame]". Leaving it on the latch is this, also. I heard this expression in Yorkshire as a kid in the noughties, but it has apparently been heard elsewhere.

This is mainly for doors, for windows I'd use the American sounding "crack" as above.

2

to prop (open)

Merriam Webster: Definition 2

I agree that crack is better, but this was my first thought. Implies the use of a helper object like a doorstop.

  • He propped the window open so that a light breeze could come in.

  • The door was not totally closed. Someone had propped it open.

In my opinion, really couldn't be used without 'open.' or at least another adjective, like (possibly) 'ajar.' (I can't think of an example that sentence that sounds good and uses only 'ajar.')

  • But prop doesn't say anything about how open the window/door is. I can prop a window or door open all the way, and that's not what OP wants. – Kevin Jul 11 '18 at 0:01

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