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Broad is a colloquial term for woman which originated during the 1930s.
There is some disagreement about the origin of the word. Many believe the term refers to the shape of women's hips, arguably their most defining characteristic, which are usually broader than the hips of men. Others say that it comes from the American-English word "abroadwife" which meant slave woman or a woman who was separated from her husband. Another suggestion is that it comes from a slang word for "ticket" common in the 1910s. Around this time prostitutes may have been called broads as they were a pimp's "meal ticket." The word broad was later used to define any woman of questionable virtue.
The term broad is outdated by modern standards, but is still used in some social circles including by Italian-Americans in Philadelphia, South and North Jersey, and New York City.
The term broad was originally used to describe a prostitute or any immoral woman. However, the word was used to define an independent and assertive woman. These women often worked in show business professions such as singing or acting. They were not afraid to let their opinions be heard, even if they were sarcastic or abrasive, and to drink, smoke, and compete with one another like their male associates. They were also typically quite aggressive in a sexual way. Despite their strength, broads were still feminine. Broads typically wore beautiful dresses and perfect makeup.
The term "classy broad" is a common variation of broad. Classy broads were often more successful than typical broads, whether they were self-made, born rich, or enjoyed a lavish lifestyle courtesy of a sugar daddy.
Broad is seen as a somewhat disrespectful way of addressing woman, and is comparable to other retro terms such as skirt, blonde, doll, or dame.