Word Confusion: Breach versus Breech

Posted July 12, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Admittedly, both words are uncommon enough that mistaking one for the other is rather easy. Except, I suspect I’d feel better knowing my breeches were in place when I stormed that breach!

You may also want to explore “Broach versus Brooch” when it comes to whales.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Breach Breech
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

“The Storming of Fort Wagner” by Kurz & Allison is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons & the Library of Congress

Breaching the walls of Fort Wagner.

“Breech of 10-inch Rodmandam Rifled to 8-inches” photographed by Junglerot56 is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Yup, looks like a breech to me, yikes!

Part of Grammar:
Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: breaches
Past tense or past participle: breached
Gerund or present participle: breaching

Noun; Verb, transitive
Plural for the noun and third person present verb: breeches
Past tense or past participle: breeched
Gerund or present participle: breeching
An act of breaking or failing to observe a law, agreement, or code of conduct

  • A break in relations

A gap in a wall, barrier, or defense, especially one made by an attacking army

Verb, intransitive:
Make a gap in and break through a wall, barrier, or defense

  • [Of a whale] Rise and break through the surface of the water

Verb, transitive:
Make a gap in and break through a wall, barrier, or defense

  • Break or fail to observe a law, agreement, or code of conduct
[Archaic] Buttocks

[Ordnance] Rear part of the bore of a gun or the part of the firearm behind the barrel

  • Where a gun breaks into two parts for loading
  • The back part of a rifle or gun barrel

[Birth] Indicates that part of the baby that appears first

[Machinery] End of a block or pulley farthest from the supporting hook or eye

[Nautical] Outside angle of a knee in the frame of a ship

Verb, transitive:
Clothe with breeches

[Ordnance] Fit or furnish a gun with a breech

[Archaic] Put a boy into breeches after being in petticoats since birth

A clear breach of the regulations.

Once more into the breach, dear friends.

It was a breach of confidence between the two old friends.

I sued for breach of contract.

It was a sudden breach between father and son.

Verb, intransitive:
The whale will breach the surface.

Verb, transitive:
The river breached its bank.

The changes breached union rules.

Get those breeches on!

The breech-loader was a great improvement in firearms as it was quicker, easier, and safer to load.

You, my boy, are getting way too big for your breeches.

Janey! I just got my new riding breeches.

Knee breeches are de rigeur, my dear.

Verb, transitive:
Breech the baby!

Is that gun breeched yet?

Adjective: nonbreaching, unbreached
Noun: breacher, nonbreach
Adjective: unbreeched
Noun: breeching
History of the Word:
First known use: before 1000

In Old English, it was spelled brēc

In Middle English, it was spelled breeche

Old English brēc (plural of brōc, of Germanic origin. Related to Dutch broek), interpreted as a singular form. The original sense was garment covering the loins and thighs, i.e., breeches, hence the buttocks 1 in mid-16th century, later the hind part of anything (late 16th century).

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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