The, (used with a plural verb) a low-lying region in E England, in Norfolk and Suffolk: bogs and marshy lakes.



adjective, broad·er, broad·est.

of great breadth: The river was too broad to swim across.
measured from side to side: The desk was three feet broad.
of great extent; large: the broad expanse of ocean.
widely diffused; open; full: We awoke to broad daylight.
not limited or narrow; of extensive range or scope: A modern doctor must have a broad knowledge of medicine.
liberal; tolerant: A broad interpretation of the law tempers justice with mercy.
main or general: the broad outlines of a subject.
plain or clear: Her remark was a broad hint of her feelings.
bold; plain-spoken.
indelicate; indecent: He smirked at the broad joke.
(of conversation) rough; countrified.
unconfined; free; unrestrained: It was a hilarious evening of broad mirth.
(of pronunciation) strongly dialectal: He wore kilts and had a broad Scots accent.
Phonetics. (of a transcription) using one basic symbol to represent each phoneme.
broad a, the a-sound [ah] /ɑ/ when used in lieu of the more common a-sound [a] /æ/ in such words as half, can't, and laugh.


fully: He was broad awake.


the broad part of anything.
  1. Usually Offensive.a term used to refer to a woman.
  2. a promiscuous woman.
Often broads. Movies, Television. an incandescent or fluorescent lamp used as a general source of light in a studio.
a gold coin of England and Scotland, issued by James I and Charles I and equal to 20 shillings.Compare carolus, jacobus.

Origin of broad

before 1000; Middle English bro(o)d, Old English brād; cognate with Dutch breed, German breit, Old Norse breithr, Gothic braiths
Related formsbroad·ish, adjectivebroad·ly, adverbo·ver·broad, adjective

Synonyms for broad

1. See wide. 3. extensive, ample, vast. 5. liberal, open. 10. gross.

Antonyms for broad

1. narrow.

Usage note

When used to refer to a woman, broad is usually perceived as insulting. The meaning “promiscuous woman” is probably the earlier sense. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for broads

Historical Examples of broads

  • Those centres of interest to the angler—the Norfolk broads—are, alas!

  • At first, the Broads had merely impressed her with their utter absence of fuss.

    Twos and Threes

    G. B. Stern

  • For it is quite clear that journeys by rail cannot show one the life of the Broads.

  • The immense influx of visitors to the Broads is, of course, responsible for this increase.

  • There is still a different beauty in the fen country and the land of the Broads.


    Arthur L. Salmon

British Dictionary definitions for broads


pl n the Broads

a group of shallow navigable lakes, connected by a network of rivers, in E England, in Norfolk and Suffolk
the region around these lakes: a tourist centre; several bird sanctuaries



having relatively great breadth or width
of vast extent; spaciousa broad plain
(postpositive) from one side to the otherfour miles broad
of great scope or potentialthat invention had broad applications
not detailed; generalbroad plans
clear and open; full (esp in the phrase broad daylight)
obvious or plainbroad hints
liberal; toleranta broad political stance
widely spread; extensivebroad support
outspoken or bolda broad manner
vulgar; coarse; indecenta broad joke
unrestrained; freebroad laughter
(of a dialect or pronunciation) consisting of a large number of speech sounds characteristic of a particular geographical areaa broad Yorkshire accent
finance denoting an assessment of liquidity as including notes and coin in circulation with the public, banks' till money and balances, most private-sector bank deposits, and sterling bank-deposit certificatesbroad money Compare narrow (def. 7)
  1. of or relating to a type of pronunciation transcription in which symbols correspond approximately to phonemes without taking account of allophonic variations
  2. broad athe long vowel in English words such as father, half, as represented in the received pronunciation of Southern British English
as broad as it is long amounting to the same thing; without advantage either way


the broad part of something
slang, mainly US and Canadian
  1. a girl or woman
  2. a prostitute
British dialect a river spreading over a lowlandSee also Broads
East Anglian dialect a shallow lake
a wood-turning tool used for shaping the insides and bottoms of cylinders


widely or fullybroad awake
Derived Formsbroadly, adverbbroadness, noun

Word Origin for broad

Old English brād; related to Old Norse breithr, Old Frisian brēd, Old High German breit, Gothic braiths
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 broads



Old English brad "broad, flat, open, extended," from Proto-Germanic *braithaz (cf. Old Frisian bred, Old Norse breiðr, Dutch breed, German breit, Gothic brouþs), of unknown origin. Not found outside Germanic languages. No clear distinction in sense from wide. Related: Broadly. Broad-brim as a style of hat (1680s, broad-brimmed) in 18c.-19c. suggested "Quaker male" from their characteristic attire.



"woman," slang, 1911, perhaps suggestive of broad (adj.) hips, but it also might trace to American English abroadwife, word for a woman (often a slave) away from her husband. Earliest use of the slang word suggests immorality or coarse, low-class women. Because of this negative association, and the rise of women's athletics, the track and field broad jump was changed to the long jump c.1967.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with broads


In addition to the idioms beginning with broad

  • broad daylight
  • broad in the beam
  • broad shoulders, have

also see:

  • can't hit the broad side of a barn
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.