# What is the difference between width and breadth?

I have looked this in dictionaries and they both mean: a distance from side to side.

I looked in google and the links say that they have a similar meaning with a slight difference but none pf them clearly explains what is that difference.

I understand that they are synonyms so please don't tell me that again. I'm specifically looking for the slight difference in their usage. Please explain that to me with some examples.

Since width and breadth derive from wide and broad we can look at these words for more clarification.

From Merriam Webster:

broad, wide, deep mean having horizontal extent.
Broad and wide apply to a surface measured or viewed from side to side < a broad avenue >.
Wide is more common when units of measurement are mentioned < rugs eight feet wide > or applied to unfilled space between limits < a wide doorway >.
Broad is preferred when full horizontal extent is considered < broad shoulders >.
Deep may indicate horizontal extent away from the observer or from a front or peripheral point < a deep cupboard > < deep woods >.

• An example: "Developing the technology to measure the width of a particle that small vastly expanded the breadth and depth of our knowledge of physics." I just made that up to use width and breadth in the same sentence, so it's not necessarily a true statement. – ColleenV parted ways Oct 20 '14 at 21:11

Since they both indicate some form of measurement, let us first contrast both words with length. So imagine a square. In this case, width, breadth and length are all equal and are pretty interchangeable (i.e. synonymous).

Now imagine a rectangle. Typically length is used to describe the "longest" side and the "shorter side" can be described as the breadth as in in "the length and breadth of …". So where does that leave width? Well if I had to say "the breadth and width of …" then I would assume breadth still stands for the shorter side and width for the longer side. However, if someone were to say "the length and width of " then of course width then becomes synonymous to breadth.

Now in everyday use… imagine you are standing next to and facing a road (waiting for, say, a bus). The "length" of the road is the distance measured along its curb, and would in all likelihood, be measured in kilometers. The distance from one curb to the other, this distance you cover crossing the road, is typically referred to as the width of the road and rarely as the breadth of the road — unless you are standing in the middle of the road with your arms outstretched towards the curbs… you could poetically say the breadth of the road.

So when to use breadth in common everyday language… well imagine a cube instead of a square. One can easily say the box is x centimeters wide (width), y centimeters long (length) and z centimeters high (height). Try to use "broad" to mean "breadth" in that sentence and you will sound archaic. But then again most people in measuring a cuboid would say width, height and breadth, eschewing length altogether.

So go on. Enjoy the quirks of the English language.

One is about practical physical measurement, as in:

'the tailor would measure the width of a piece of cloth'.

And the breadth is a figurative speech meaning like:

'I searched the length and breadth of this place for that missing pen'.

I've always understood width and breadth to be synonymous with breadth just being an older English word.