When a door is opened partly it seems correct to choose the word "ajar". If the door is widely open, which words are correct to use? For example, can "broad" be used?

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    Why not just use wide-open? Also, if a door metaphorically invites someone to enter, one may use gaping. I don't think, however, that studying such a rare word would be necessary for an average language learner. Feb 21, 2013 at 7:02
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    To me as a native speaker, "widely open" takes a moment to understand, because "widely" is almost always used in the abstract. "This is widely known", "It is widely agreed", "Our opinions are widely different". It's generally not used as the adverb form of "wide" in the physical sense. Jun 23, 2014 at 8:16

2 Answers 2


No. If you look up a dictionary, it will tell you that broad means wide in extent or scope. This implies that it is usually used with abstract concepts such as a project or one's knowledge.

My best suggestion here is what bytebuster said: wide-open. There are also less common terms like agape (when used predicatively) or gaping (when used attributively), although gaping usually refers to the open space created by the wide-open door than the door itself. I do, however, suggest you to follow bytebuster's advice unless you are composing serious texts.

  • Your "broad" usage is very uncommon. NGrams for inches and yards broad show that nearly everyone uses wide in such constructions. Feb 21, 2013 at 18:25
  • It is quite a dated expression. You can find examples of it on Google Books. Take a look at this: books.google.co.nz/… Feb 21, 2013 at 21:14
  • You're not kidding it's "quite dated". I set the date range in my NGram links there to 1900-2000 - you have to go back a couple of centuries to find "broad" being as common as "wide" in such constructions! I think ELL should stick to "reasonably current" usage as a rule. Feb 21, 2013 at 21:33
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    OK. I removed the part about this. I just wanted to list out all the possible uses of the word. No harm meant. Was just trying to help, mate. Feb 21, 2013 at 22:56
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    agape was the first word that came to my mind so you get my vote. Feb 21, 2013 at 23:10

As others have said, The door was wide-open means that the door was completely open in a physical sense. However, when converted to My/his door is wide-open, the expression often becomes idiomatic, meaning "People should always feel free to talk to\approach me/him". (This idiom might only pertain to North America English.)

As well, I am quite sure that gaping always refers adjectivally to a gap or opening in something that is not (usually) meant to gape/be opened. For example, There was a gaping hole in his parachute -- there wasn't supposed to be a hole. Similarly, the verb gape is typically used to mean stare, both of which refer to a kind of looking at that isn't supposed to happen (i.e., I couldn't help gaping at Princess Diana as she walked along the street; for the verbs gape/stare, to do so is socially-unacceptable/impolite--but as Hillary Mantel has recently pointed out, irresistible.

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    As shown by this NGram, the "idiomatic" usage is My door is always open, not My door is wide open, when the sense is I am accessible. Feb 21, 2013 at 18:28
  • Interesting. Maybe it is only in Canada that the two expressions are interchangeable for the idiomatic meaning. Feb 22, 2013 at 1:44
  • I've occasionally been surprised to find what I thought was common usage among all Anglophones turns out to be SE UK specific. But I also think always is semantically more apt (so if both were commonly used by others around me, I'd still probably always use always myself! :) Feb 22, 2013 at 4:37

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