Breeches vs britches

Breeches are short trousers that extend to or below the knee. When speaking informally, breeches is a term that may refer to any trousers. Breeches is a plural noun, the preferred pronunciation is BRIchiz. The word breeches appears around 1200, it comes from the Old English word brec, the plural of broc, meaning a garment for the legs and trunk. Breeches cover a person’s posterior, the word breech has come to refer to a baby trying to emerge from the womb posterior first, and the part of a gun behind the bore.

Britches are also short trousers that extend to or below the knee, but when speaking informally, britches is a term that may refer to any trousers. Britches is a plural noun, the preferred pronunciation is also BRIchiz. Britches first came into use in 1571, it is an alternate spelling of breeches, and also, a less formal spelling.

Examples

On Broadway, African-American and Latino actors attired in the breeches, boots, and waistcoats of the Revolutionary War period are portraying the Founding Fathers — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton — in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton,’’ a critically acclaimed hip-hop musical whose audience last month included President Obama. (The Boston Globe)

A tripod-wielding camera buff in boots and riding breeches — proper togs for an auteur back then — is our hallucinatory creative Everyman. (The Financial Times)

Of course, it still looks like baseball, except for the frequently striped bats and the Civil War-era uniforms – including long pants instead of knee britches like modern players wear. (The Murfreesboro Post)

Johnny Vegas Syndrome sets in when one’s britches are a little too big for them, and usually appears as one continues to taste (and soon expect) success. (The Huffington Post)

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