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See also: Broad. and B road


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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English brood, brode, from Old English brād (broad, flat, open, extended, spacious, wide, ample, copious), from Proto-West Germanic *braid, from Proto-Germanic *braidaz (broad), of uncertain origin. Cognate with Scots braid (broad), West Frisian breed (broad), Saterland Frisian breed (broad), Low German breed (broad), breet, Dutch breed (broad), German breit (broad, wide), Danish, Swedish and Norwegian Bokmål bred (broad), Norwegian brei (broad), Icelandic breiður (broad, wide).



broad (comparative broader, superlative broadest)

  1. Wide in extent or scope.
    three feet broad
    the broad expanse of ocean
    • 1897 December (indicated as 1898), Winston Churchill, chapter II, in The Celebrity: An Episode, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., →OCLC:
      Sunning himself on the board steps, I saw for the first time Mr. Farquhar Fenelon Cooke. He was dressed out in broad gaiters and bright tweeds, like an English tourist, and his face might have belonged to Dagon, idol of the Philistines.
    • 2012 April 19, Josh Halliday, “Free speech haven or lawless cesspool – can the internet be civilised?”, in the Guardian:
      Julia Farrington, head of arts at Index on Censorship, argues that extra powers to ban violent videos online will "end up too broad and open to misapplication, which would damage freedom of expression".
    • 2013 June 28, Joris Luyendijk, “Our banks are out of control”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 189, number 3, page 21:
      Seeing the British establishment struggle with the financial sector is like watching an alcoholic […].  Until 2008 there was denial over what finance had become. […]  But the scandals kept coming, and so we entered stage three – what therapists call "bargaining". A broad section of the political class now recognises the need for change but remains unable to see the necessity of a fundamental overhaul. Instead it offers fixes and patches.
  2. Extended, in the sense of diffused; open; clear; full.
    • 1720, William Bartlet, a sermon:
      broad and open day
    • May 12, 1860, Eliza Watson, Witches and witchcraft (in Once A Week, No. 46.)
      crushing the minds of its victims in the broad and open day
  3. Having a large measure of any thing or quality; unlimited; unrestrained.
  4. Comprehensive; liberal; enlarged.
    • 1819, D. Daggett, Sturges v. Crowninshield:
      The words in the Constitution are broad enough to include the case.
    • 1859, Edward Everett, Daniel Webster: An Oration On the Occasion of the Dedication of the Statue of Mr. Webster,:
      in a broad, statesmanlike, and masterly way
  5. Plain; evident.
    a broad hint
  6. General rather than specific.
    to be in broad agreement
  7. (writing) Unsubtle; obvious.
  8. Free; unrestrained; unconfined.
  9. (dated) Gross; coarse; indelicate.
    a broad compliment; a broad joke; broad humour
  10. (of an accent) Strongly regional.
    She still has a broad Scottish accent, despite moving to California 20 years ago.
  11. (Gaelic languages) Velarized, i.e. not palatalized.
Derived terms[edit]
Terms derived from broad (adjective)


broad (plural broads)

  1. (UK) A shallow lake, one of a number of bodies of water in eastern Norfolk and Suffolk.
  2. A lathe tool for turning down the insides and bottoms of cylinders[1].
  3. (UK, historical) A British gold coin worth 20 shillings, issued by the Commonwealth of England in 1656.
  4. (film, television) A kind of floodlight.
    • 1974, The Video Handbook, page 71:
      [] fresnel spotlights, old-type broads, sky-pans, cone-lights, etc.
    • 1976, Herbert Zettl, Television Production Handbook, volume 10, page 105:
      Some broads have barn doors (see page 115) to block gross light spill into other set areas; others have even an adjustable beam, []
    • 2015, Jim Owens, Television Production, page 194:
      Light bounced from large white surfaces (e.g., matte reflector boards, or a white ceiling). Floodlights include scoops, broads, floodlight, banks, internally reflected units, strip lights, and cyclorama lights.
  5. (slang, archaic) A playing card.
    • 1927, Arthur Morris Binstead, The works of A. M. Binstead, volume 2, page 118:
      I reckon as old Sol couldn't ha' lived without a pack of broads. If he couldn't find anybody to play with him, he'd play alone, []
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Early 20th century. Perhaps from broad hips or from American English abroadwife, "woman who lives or travels without her husband", often a slave.[2] Perhaps there was influence from bride in a similar sense to use of the cognate German Braut for “girlfriend, young woman”.


broad (plural broads)

  1. (dated) A prostitute, a woman of loose morals.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:prostitute
  2. (US, colloquial, slang, sometimes dated) A woman or girl.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:woman, Thesaurus:girl
    • 1950, Albert Mannheimer, Born Yesterday, spoken by Harry Brock:
      They always hook you in the end, them broads. This whole trouble is on account of a dame reads a book.
    • 1974, Oscar Williams; Michael Allin, Truck Turner, spoken by Jerry:
      Hey, man, Truck, you got to understand, she's a no class broad and you a gross son of a bitch. Naturally, she don't like you.
    • 1984, Charles Robert Anderson, The Grunts, Berkley Books, →ISBN, page 157:
      The grunts resumed their bitching at the heat, the hills, and the lack of cold beer and hot broads.
    • 1986, Tim Kazurinsky; Denise DeClue, About Last Night, spoken by Bernie (Jim Belushi):
      I mean, what the fuck. If a guy wants to get on with a broad on a more or less stable basis, who's to say to him no? Huh? A lot of these broads, you know, you just don't know, you know. I mean, a young woman in today's society, by the time she's 22–23, you don't know where the fuck she's been.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 1874, Edward H. Knight, American Mechanical Dictionary
  2. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “broad”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.




(This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.)


broad m (plural broiz)

  1. person from a country



broad f (plural broadoù)

  1. nation


Derived terms[edit]