This is a definition from macmillan dictionary for the word "broadside"

"broadside" with the side facing towards something example-sentence: His van hit the car broadside.

If I tried to apply this definition to the example-sentence it would read something like: "His van hit the car with the side facing toward it" but this is not the definition of the word "broadside" as far as I know.

Broadside (Oxford dic def) collide with the side of (a vehicle).

So the van in question hit the side of the other car(or T-boned that car)

The example on TheFreeDictionary.com is also confusing to me

"Broadside" (TFD dic def) With the side turned to a given point or object; sideways: The wave hit the canoe broadside and sank it.

If the wave hit the canoe sideways (with the side turned to a canoe) Then it would not necessarily sink it. It's obvious that it is the canoe that is sideways and the wave hit the side of it, just as a car t-bones another car in a traffic accident. What can't I understand above these definitions though? It's as if the object to which the definition applies is switched to the other one in both of them (OFC i suspect that they are correct and I just fail to understand it)

  • The van hit the car while the side of the car was facing its (the van's) direction of travel. The wave hit the canoe while the canoe had its side turned towards the waves. If it was a big enough wave it could swamp the canoe with water. Mar 7, 2022 at 17:43

3 Answers 3


broadside means literally that, the side that is broad, as opposed to the side that is sharp or narrow. If you think about a car, van, canoe or almost any ship or vehicle it will have two wide sides and two narrower ends on of which usually points in the direction of travel.

My understanding of "His van hit the car broadside." is that the side of the van, rather than the front or back, hit the car. This, I would expect, meant the van was skidding or sliding sideways rather than moving in its usual direction of travel.

Similarly The wave hit the canoe broadside and sank it. means the wave hit the side of the canoe (rather than one of the pointed ends) and swamped it. It was the broad side of the canoe that got hit by the wave. In other words the canoe was traveling parallel to the waves rather than into them. You are right, a wave may not sink a canoe even if it strikes broadside, but in this instance, it did.

There is another similar meaning of broadside. In the days before gun turrets, many fighting ships had most of their guns facing out from the sides of the ship. They had limited if any ability to traverse. They could only fire at right-angles to the side of the vessel. Hence a common tactic was to come alongside an enemy vessel and fire all your guns on that side at once. This was known as firing a broadside and usually had devastating results if done correctly.


You may be confused because broadside can be a verb, a noun, and an adverb. All have different meanings obviously.

In the Oxford English Dictionary, the noun alone has 6 separate definitions, one of which is obsolete, the verb has 1 definition, and the adverb has 2 definitions, one of which is chiefly US usage.

Instead of comparing different dictionary entries, perhaps just stick to one dictionary, and pay attention to which part of speech you are using. Follow usage examples if these are given.


Sorry guys, I just realized what happened. I indeed confused different parts of speech. The verb "to broadside" means essentially to T-bone somebody or something, but the adverb "broadside" denotes that it's you who is sideways, so hitting a car broadside would mean that you were skidding sideways and your side hit it. PS. I feel dumb:) THX anyways

  • I would say that T-boning someone is not strictly broadsiding them. In T-boning the front (or possibly rear) one vehicle strikes the side of another, in the shape of the letter "T". In broadsiding the side of the impacting vehicle strikes some part of the other. Not to be confused with sideswiping where the the vehicles scrape side to side whilst they are traveling either in the same or opposite direction. Mar 8, 2022 at 1:54
  • Peter Jenning: Merriam Webster dictionary disagrees with you: to hit broadside (adverb meaning from the side) the car was broadsided Mar 8, 2022 at 13:09

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