Etymology of Broad

Where does “broad” come from to describe a woman?

It doesn’t seem like it should occur naturally, as women aren’t particularly broad, in any sense of the word.

Child-bearing hips perhaps?

The word “broad” has some archaic meaings, some of which are “vulgar; ribald” and “outspoken.” suggests “broad”

And of course “broad” means “wide.” So the picture we have of a broad is a large, loud, rough woman.

[somewhat off-topic]
The little guy, my favorite nephew (about four), had a different take on it. He’d been playing with some other boys, and was talking about them using his new word for the day, “broad.” “This broad let me play with his truck, that broad, he fell down,” etc.

So his mother was explaining to him that first of all, “broad” is not a nice thing to call someone and anyway, “broads” are girls, not boys.

Little guy thinks about it a while, then says, “So that’s why in church, the priest says ‘you may now kiss the broad!’”


Don’t be sexist (broads hate that)

The OED tells us that the noun “broad,” meaning a woman, dates back to the early 20th century United States. Then, it was slang for “prostitute.” I particularly got a kick out of this early use of the word, from a 1915 play:

They just don’t write 'em like that anymore!

I suspect “broad” emerged as a noun from the adjective “broad” – not referring to hips or girth, but rather to an outmoded connotation indicating “Loose, gross, indecent”, which was still in use at the end of the 19th century.

Most etymologists would probably suggest another source.

First playing card, then ticket, then “meal ticket” to broad.

You could still be correct, though.