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A man wearing breeches

Part or all of this page has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.


Middle English brech, brek, Old English brēc, plural of brc breech, breeches; akin to Icelandic brók breeches, Old Danish brog, Dutch broek, German bruch; compare Latin bracae, braccae, which is of Celtic origin. Compare brail.


  • (UK) IPA: /bɹɪitʃəz/, /bɹɪtʃəz/, SAMPA: /bri:tS@z/, /brItS@z/



  1. Plural form of breech.
  2. A garment worn by men, covering the hips and thighs; smallclothes.
    • 1829, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey, "The Devil's Thoughts,"
      And how then was the Devil drest?
      Oh! he was in his Sunday's best:
      His jacket was red and his breeches were blue,
      And there was a hole where the tail came through.
  3. (informal) Trousers; pantaloons; britches.

Related terms

  • breeches buoy: in the life-saving service, a pair of canvas breeches depending from an annular or beltlike life buoy which is usually of cork. This contrivance, inclosing the person to be rescued, is hung by short ropes from a block which runs upon the hawser stretched from the ship to the shore, and is drawn to land by hauling lines.
  • breeches pipe:, a forked pipe forming two branches united at one end.
  • knee breeches: breeches coming to the knee, and buckled or fastened there; smallclothes.
  • to wear the breeches (Colloquial): to usurp the authority of the husband; -- said of a wife.
  • To become too big for one's britches (Southern U.S.): to have an overblown feeling of self importance.

See also

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