From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:

Niche \Niche\ (n[i^]ch), n. [F., fr. It. nicchia, prop., a
   shell-like recess in a wall, fr. nicchio a shellfish, mussel,
   fr. L. mytilus.]
   A cavity, hollow, or recess, generally within the thickness
   of a wall, for a statue, bust, or other erect ornament.
   Hence, any similar position, literal or figurative.
   [1913 Webster]

         Images defended from the injuries of the weather by
         niches of stone wherein they are placed. --Evelun.
   [1913 Webster]
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