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Cissy Patterson, publisher of the Washington Times-Herald, had fresh flowers brought aboard at stopping places along the way.

What does "brought aboard" mean in this sentence? Is that a figurative expression?

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    There isn't enough context to tell. It could be completely literal if, for example, she was on a cruise ship when she did this. – Gary Botnovcan Jul 20 '20 at 16:01
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    She was clearly on board something. A ship, a plane, or (I think) a train. The sentence is copied from a dictionary definition of the word 'aboard'. – Michael Harvey Jul 20 '20 at 16:13
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To bring something aboard, or to have it brought aboard, is to have the thing brought into some kind of conveyance; particularly a plane or ship. For a car the more common phrase would be 'brought it with' or 'put it in'. The same idea also applies to 'come aboard': you 'come aboard' a plane or ship, you 'get in' a car.

One can go either way with a train. You can 'get on' a train or 'get aboard' a train.

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