Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Broadside

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is broadside. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

The word broadside most often refers to a very strong and harsh spoken or written attack, but it has other meanings as well, among them “an attack by a ship in which all the guns on one side of the ship are fired together.”

// Although the freshman representative knew her decision was bound to be unpopular, she was taken aback by the broadside leveled at her by her hometown newspaper’s editorial page.

BROADSIDE in Context

“Mr. Taruskin had a no-holds-barred approach to intellectual combat. … Following a 1991 broadside by Mr. Taruskin contending that Sergei Prokofiev had composed Stalinist propaganda, one biographer complained of his ‘sneering antipathy.’” — William Robin, The New York Times, 1 July 2022

Did You Know?

Nautical language is both fascinating and fun, what with its jibbooms and spirketing, its scuppers and poop decks. As these four terms demonstrate, not all ship-related words sail over to landlubber vocabulary, but broadside is one that has. It originally referred to the side of a ship above the water, then later to the guns arrayed along that side. The further use of broadside to refer to the firing of all those guns at once eventually led to the figurative “volley of abuse” sense—a strongly worded attack intended to shiver one’s timbers. The printing-related uses of broadside, referring originally to sheets of paper, and then to matter printed on such paper, arose independently.

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