Recently, I was informed that introverts look for depth of knowledge whereas extorverts are about breadth of knowledge. This positions horizontal breadth or width as orthogonal direction to the vertical depth so that I started to think that broadness and breadth are not only semantically but etymologically identical. How much am I right?


1 Answer 1


Both are from the Anglo-Saxon (AS) brad, broad.

Breadth: AS braedu, from brad

Broad: AS brad

My source: Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary

Further Information from Online Etymology Dictionary (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=breadth&searchmode=term)

broad: Old English brad "broad, flat, open, extended," from Proto-Germanic *braithaz (cognates: Old Frisian bred, Old Norse breiðr, Dutch breed, German breit, Gothic brouþs), which is of unknown origin. Not found outside Germanic languages. No clear distinction in sense from wide.

breadth: 1520s, alteration of brede "breadth," from Old English brædu "breadth, width, extent," from bræd; probably by analogy of long/length

  • The problem with OED is that it creates the false impression that words are unrelated. The linguists seem to lack the basic logic and read the fact that something is unknown as 'it does not exist', argumenting from ignorance. Thanks therefore with your Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary reference, which proves that false impression is not always true, that words can be related despite OED does not tell it explicitly. My question would had no value if you could answer it simply looking at OED. Dec 3, 2015 at 14:02
  • @Valentin Tihomirov I logged in to thank you for the acceptance, and to tell you that I had added information from the Online Etymology Dictionary, which I used for the first time (!) in editing my answer to your question; I found very easy to use. You may want to take a look at it and experiment with it. Then I saw the above comment, which you should please ignore.
    – ab2
    Dec 3, 2015 at 14:49

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