What is the meaning of "broads" in Hemingway's short story Fifty Grand? Here's the context:

The three of us, Jack Brennan, Soldier Bartlett, and I were in Hanley’s. There were a couple of broads sitting at the next table to us. They had been drinking.
“What do you mean, kike?” one of the broads says. “What do you mean, kike, you big Irish bum?”
“Sure,” Jack says. “That’s it.”
“Kikes,” this broad goes on. “They’re always talking about kikes, these big Irishmen. What do you mean, kikes?”
“Come on. Let’s get out of here.”

Are they women? Or is there another meaning? Somehow it sounded weird to me that two women were drinking at a bar at that time and started arguing with these boxers

  • 2
    This question belongs on English Language Learners. The slang use of "broad" in such contexts is well-established and raises no on-topic issues for Lit SE.
    – verbose
    Commented Feb 14, 2021 at 4:18
  • 1
    @verbose We still aren't closing basic meaning questions. In this case, I think a good answer would address not only the meaning of the slang term "broad" but also the last sentence of the OP which relates to the context in the story and perhaps the historical setting.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Feb 14, 2021 at 10:31
  • It likely comes from the nautical expression "broad in the beam", the "beam" being the widest part of a ship's hull. Such a vessel would have a very noticeable curve, unlike a canoe, which is far more streamlined. Women are typically broader in the beam than men. Commented Feb 21, 2021 at 13:40

1 Answer 1


A "Broad" in this sense is a young woman ("Old broad" being the extension) from a working class background. Such a woman was considered forthright and independent. It is a slang term which would not, for instance, be applied to a high-society woman, unless in a sarcastic sense.

"Broad" is, in this sense, American slang dating from the very early twentieth century. It is from a vernacular associated with the Greater New York area, primarily, and, later, with other, generally Eastern, urban centers, such as Chicago.

Noir crime fiction, either in books or in film, often makes use of the term "broad", as do comedies ranging from Damon Runyon to Bugs Bunny and the Three Stooges. It is now generally used as homage to the noir genre.

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