phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

The Phrase Finder

The meaning and origin of the expression: Broad in the beam

Browse phrases beginning with:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ - Full List

Broad in the beam


Having wide hips or buttocks.


This phrase derives from the nautical term 'beam' - the widest point of a ship. Beam is first recorded in Captain John Smith's invaluable record of early seafaring terms - The Seaman's Grammar, 1627:

"Suppose a Ship of 300. Tunnes be 29 foot at the Beame."

The figurative use of beam referring to people's hips came into being in the 20th century. An early citation of that comes in Hugh Walpole's Hans Frost, 1929:

"He stood watching disgustedly Bigges' broad beam."

See other Nautical Phrases.