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breeches

[brich-iz, bree-chiz]
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noun (used with a plural verb)
  1. Also called knee breeches. knee-length trousers, often having ornamental buckles or elaborate decoration at or near the bottoms, commonly worn by men and boys in the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries.
  2. riding breeches.
  3. Informal. trousers.
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Idioms
  1. too big for one's breeches, asserting oneself beyond one's authority or ability.
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Origin of breeches

1125–75; Middle English, plural of breech
Can be confusedbreeches britches

breech

[noun breech; verb breech, brich]
noun
  1. the lower, rear part of the trunk of the body; buttocks.
  2. the hinder or lower part of anything.
  3. Ordnance. the rear part of the bore of a gun, especially the opening and associated mechanism that permits insertion of a projectile.
  4. Machinery. the end of a block or pulley farthest from the supporting hook or eye.
  5. Nautical. the outside angle of a knee in the frame of a ship.
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verb (used with object)
  1. Ordnance. to fit or furnish (a gun) with a breech.
  2. to clothe with breeches.
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Origin of breech

before 1000; Middle English breeche, Old English brēc, plural of brōc; cognate with Old Norse brōk, Old High German bruoh
Related formsun·breeched, adjective
Can be confusedbreach breech (see synonym study at breach)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for breeches

Historical Examples

  • I'll get a pair of ridin' breeches an' boots for you by tomorrow.

    Thoroughbreds

    W. A. Fraser

  • Pierre, utterly bewildered, could find neither his breeches nor his cassock.

  • The man hath a straight sword within he leg of his breeches.

    Micah Clarke

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Then came the ominous clicking of the breeches as cartridges were thrust home.

    The Law-Breakers

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • It is an excrescence, not an essential garment like the shirt and breeches.


British Dictionary definitions for breeches

breeches

pl n
  1. trousers extending to the knee or just below, worn for riding, mountaineering, etc
  2. informal, or dialect any trousers
  3. too big for one's breeches conceited; unduly self-confident
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breech

noun (briːtʃ)
  1. the lower dorsal part of the human trunk; buttocks; rump
  2. the lower part or bottom of somethingthe breech of the bridge
  3. the lower portion of a pulley block, esp the part to which the rope or chain is secured
  4. the part of a firearm behind the barrel or bore
  5. obstetrics short for breech delivery
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verb (briːtʃ, brɪtʃ) (tr)
  1. to fit (a gun) with a breech
  2. archaic to clothe in breeches or any other clothing
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See also breeches

Word Origin

Old English brēc, plural of brōc leg covering; related to Old Norse brōk, Old High German bruoh

usage

Breech is sometimes wrongly used as a verb where breach is meant: the barrier/agreement was breached (not breeched)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for breeches

n.

c.1200, a double plural, from Old English brec "breeches," which already was plural of broc "garment for the legs and trunk," from Proto-Germanic *brokiz (cf. Old Norse brok, Dutch broek, Danish brog, Old High German bruoh, German Bruch, obsolete since 18c. except in Swiss dialect), perhaps from PIE root *bhreg- (see break (v.)). The Proto-Germanic word is a parallel form to Celtic *bracca, source (via Gaulish) of Latin braca (cf. French braies), and some propose that the Germanic word group is borrowed from Gallo-Latin, others that the Celtic was from Germanic.

Expanded sense of "part of the body covered by breeches, posterior" led to senses in childbirthing (1670s) and gunnery ("the part of a firearm behind the bore," 1570s). As the popular word for "trousers" in English, displaced in U.S. c.1840 by pants. The Breeches Bible (Geneva Bible of 1560) so called on account of rendition of Gen. iii:7 (already in Wyclif) "They sewed figge leaues together, and made themselues breeches."

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breech

n.

"back part of a gun or firearm," 1570s, from singular of breeches (q.v.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

breeches in Medicine

breech

(brēch)
n.
  1. The lower rear portion of the human trunk; the buttocks.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.