Dictionaries say a broom has a long handle. But if a broom doesn't have a long handle and people have to bend down to sweep, is such a broom still called a broom?

broom broom broom

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    What dictionaries use the word "must"? And "long" is a relative term. That handle is much longer than the handle of a whisk broom, and shorter than the handle of the kind of broom that allows the typical adult user to stand upright.
    – TimR
    Commented May 29 at 11:21
  • The essence of a broom are its gathered bristles and some way for it to be held in the hand(s), either by an attached handle or via the bristles themselves.
    – TimR
    Commented May 29 at 11:30
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    I'm going to guess that you're right that there's regionality at work, because as far as I was aware it is. Commented May 29 at 12:54
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    Unfortunately any "what do you can this" question is going to prove controversial. It's a good job you didn't show a photo of a bread bun.
    – Astralbee
    Commented May 29 at 14:51
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    What's stunning to me is how unaware we all are of this variability, and how few answers have said "it's complicated" and how many have said "it's definitely this or that, and I'm sure it's universal." I mean, I know about lorry/truck and lift/elevator, but I had no idea about this. Commented May 29 at 15:18

3 Answers 3


As you said, the definition of a 'broom' is a brush with a long handle. If it doesn't have a long handle then it would simply be called a brush, a sweeping brush, or maybe a duster (although these are normally made of softer material than bristled brooms).

The brush in your photographs is a bit unusual - not long enough to be useful as a broom for sweeping but too long to be useful as a hand-held brush. Just look at the two users - they are bent double! If I had to make up a name for such a brush I'd call it a back-breaker (joke).

Interestingly this kind of brush, along with its counterpart, is called a dustpan and brush:enter image description here

And, overwhelmingly, shopping sites call this a long-handled dustpan and brush:enter image description here

So it would seem that, regardless of how long the handle is, when it is part of a combo like this it is called a brush. And, as that is how it being used in your example photos, I'd stick with that.

Note: There are always some items that have multiple names and these can vary between English-speaking regions and dialects. My point of view is as a native British English speaker with connections to both the north and south of the country. I also consulted a native US English speaker for input. I believe what I've presented here is a majority view but there may be a host of variations from others.

  • When I first came to live in Bristol, UK (from London, 120 miles away), I was struck by how the locals called what I knew as a 'broom', a 'brush'. Commented May 29 at 11:31
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    I'd call that brush in the pictures a kind of short-handled 'besom'. You used to see them (with long handles) in Westerns. Commented May 29 at 11:33
  • Definitely "broom and dustpan" for me. The kind with the horizontal handle is definitely a brush, but that's not the first thing I'd think of for use with a dustpan. Commented May 29 at 11:57
  • lowes.com/pd/… Commented May 29 at 12:43
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    @AndyBonner why don't people just ask AI in the first place instead of coming here for input from actual native speakers?
    – Astralbee
    Commented May 29 at 14:49

Few Anglophones would balk if the caption to the photo of the woman in the green dress said something like "Woman with rustic broom".

Definitions in dictionaries are not specifications. Moreover, like IQ tests, they have their social, economic, regional, and cultural biases.

The essence of a broom are its gathered bristles and some way for it to be held in the hand(s). Some brooms are designed to be pushed, some to be pulled, some to be held in one hand and used in a back-and-forth or side-to-side sweeping motion, and some brooms fall somewhere in-between.

  • I don't know about 'gathered bristles'. Where I live, the bristles of brooms are short and rammed into rows of holes in a bar of wood, in the middle of which is a larger hole designed to take a wooden 'broomstick', which can be bought at many hardware stores, and which can also be used for hoes and other garden tools. Those things with gathered bristles which witches fly on in children's books are another type of broom, specifically besoms. Commented May 29 at 17:33
  • @MichaelHarvey I would consided that a form of gathering, though an industrial one.
    – TimR
    Commented May 29 at 18:04
  • @MichaelHarvey besom describes the brooms shown in the OP but I don't think children use them often. The OP's picures are all short-handled, but my dictionary link shows a long-handled one (which a witch would need). Commented May 29 at 18:49
  • 'Rustic broom' describes it, but that's not what it's called. Like saying something is an "antique clock" - 100 years ago it was just a clock.
    – Astralbee
    Commented May 30 at 20:08
  • @Astralbee It's called a broom. In other words, "broom" is not a misnomer. A whisk broom is a broom. A push-broom is a broom. A besom broom is a broom. To say it's not a broom is like saying "That's not a chair. It's a desk chair".
    – TimR
    Commented May 30 at 20:18

No. A short corn broom like the ones pictured is called a whisk (or whisk broom). A short plastic bristly one, often but not always with a handle perpendicular to the bristles, is called a brush.

  • My whisk is made of wire, and makes my hot milk frothy. Commented May 29 at 11:33
  • I've Googled 'whisk brooms' and they have short handles. They seem like an old-fashioned version of what you would use with a modern dustpan and call a 'brush'. I don't believe that's what is in the OP's photo.
    – Astralbee
    Commented May 29 at 11:35
  • @Astralbee Not only is it what I call it in my part of the world, but when I Google it, the photos match the OP's (and your description) pretty exactly. They can also be bought locally at a housewares store here, old-fashioned though they may be. MichaelHarvey Yes, there is more than one meaning. Commented May 29 at 12:50
  • I don't see that the material is (heh) material to the designation. There are plenty of synthetic-fiber "brooms." Commented May 29 at 15:16
  • @AndyBonner True. I was thinking of this kind of thing as opposed to the corn ones shown in the OP's question. Commented May 29 at 16:15

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