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[brich-iz] /ˈbrɪtʃ ɪz/
noun, (used with a plural verb)
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.
Informal. trousers.
too big for one's breeches, asserting oneself beyond one's authority or ability.
Origin of breeches
1125-75; Middle English, plural of breech
Can be confused
breeches, britches.


[noun breech; verb breech, brich] /noun britʃ; verb britʃ, brɪtʃ/
the lower, rear part of the trunk of the body; buttocks.
the hinder or lower part of anything.
Ordnance. the rear part of the bore of a gun, especially the opening and associated mechanism that permits insertion of a projectile.
Machinery. the end of a block or pulley farthest from the supporting hook or eye.
Nautical. the outside angle of a knee in the frame of a ship.
verb (used with object)
Ordnance. to fit or furnish (a gun) with a breech.
to clothe with breeches.
before 1000; Middle English breeche, Old English brēc, plural of brōc; cognate with Old Norse brōk, Old High German bruoh
Related forms
unbreeched, adjective
Can be confused
breach, breech (see synonym study at breach) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for breeches
Historical Examples
  • Deslauriers held his tongue, as he had the bank-notes that had been given to him in his breeches' pocket.

    Sentimental Education Vol 1 Gustave Flaubert
  • It is really providential that you didn't steal his breeches.

    The Northern Iron George A. Birmingham
  • Which feels the cold most, the Highlander with his kilt and bare legs, or the Sassenach with his drawers and breeches?

    Where Art Begins Hume Nisbet
  • He was trying to dry the knees of his breeches before the stove.

    Our Casualty And Other Stories James Owen Hannay, AKA George A. Birmingham
  • Dressing was rapid, for Chris, like the rest of the sailors in the tropic heat, wore only his breeches.

    Mr. Wicker's Window Carley Dawson
  • If that was wearing the breeches, I am sure I disgraced them with my worse than womanish fears.

    Flora Lyndsay Susan Moodie
  • He started very early—dressed in a blue tailed coat, breeches, and top-boots—and surveyed until dusk.

    Lives of the Engineers Samuel Smiles
  • There is also a story of his carrying a terrified tailor to "mend the devil's breeches."

    The Cornwall Coast Arthur L. Salmon
  • "Held my head above water, breeches buoy and all that sort of thing," said Stover, remembering something in Dickens.

    The Varmint Owen Johnson
  • I thought, of course, it was a dream; but then—where the d——l are the breeches?

    Humorous Ghost Stories Dorothy Scarborough
British Dictionary definitions for breeches


/ˈbrɪtʃɪz; ˈbriː-/
plural noun
trousers extending to the knee or just below, worn for riding, mountaineering, etc
(informal or dialect) any trousers
too big for one's breeches, conceited; unduly self-confident


noun (briːtʃ)
the lower dorsal part of the human trunk; buttocks; rump
the lower part or bottom of something: the breech of the bridge
the lower portion of a pulley block, esp the part to which the rope or chain is secured
the part of a firearm behind the barrel or bore
(obstetrics) short for breech delivery
verb (transitive) (briːtʃ; brɪtʃ)
to fit (a gun) with a breech
(archaic) to clothe in breeches or any other clothing
See also breeches
Usage note
Breech is sometimes wrongly used as a verb where breach is meant: the barrier/agreement was breached (not breeched)
Word Origin
Old English brēc, plural of brōc leg covering; related to Old Norse brōk, Old High German bruoh
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
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Word Origin and History for breeches

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."



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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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breeches in Medicine

breech (brēch)
The lower rear portion of the human trunk; the buttocks.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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breeches in the Bible

(Ex. 28:42), rather linen drawers, reaching from the waist to a little above the knee, worn by the priests (Ezek. 44:17, 18).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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