Having a Broad Back: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
June 27, 2023

Idiomatic expressions uniquely paint a vivid picture of complex ideas, and the idiom "Having a Broad Back" is a prime example of this. This idiom is generally used to describe someone capable of enduring hardship or criticism without showing distress.

In short:

"Having a broad back" is an idiom used to describe someone who can bear heavy burdens, responsibilities, or criticisms.

What Does "Having a Broad Back" Mean?

The idiom "having a broad back" is a metaphorical expression that depicts a person's resilience and strength of character. Although it may sound like a comment on someone's physique, it is more accurately a testament to their emotional strength and tenacity. Although primarily positive in connotation, the idiom may also hint at the unfair imposition of burdens on a person, implying the necessity for resilience and endurance.

  • The phrase suggests a person's ability to handle heavy responsibilities or burdens.
  • It can also refer to someone who can endure criticism or hardship without breaking.
  • The "broad back" represents a symbolic space for carrying burdens analogous to a physical load.

Where Does "Having a Broad Back" Come From?

The phrase "having a broad back" traces its roots back to the physical image of a robust and capable individual able to bear a heavy load on their back. In many cultures, physical strength, especially a broad back and strong shoulders, have long been symbols of resilience and capability.

Historical Example

"And to meet this necessity of continual concentration, man's brain has become bigger and better than that of any other mammal, while his hands have become the most skilled organs on earth, and his back has broadened until he alone can support the heavy burden of a family."

-H. G. Wells, The Outline of History (1920)

10 Examples of "Having a Broad Back" in Sentences

Here are ten examples of how "having a broad back" can be used in sentences:

  • Although life may throw challenges at us, having a broad back allows us to face them with strength and resilience, knowing that no matter what, we will overcome and see you again on the other side.
  • Mary's broad back became evident when she took care of her sick parents while managing her studies.
  • In the midst of a flight of fantasy, he envisioned himself as a superhero having a broad back, ready to shoulder any burden that came his way.
  • You need a broad back to deal with the criticism that comes with being a public figure.
  • As the eldest sibling, he grew a broad back, taking care of his younger brothers and sisters after their parent's untimely death.
  • Being a leader means having a broad back to carry the expectations and criticisms of your team.
  • While on leave from work, he took the opportunity to relax and relieve stress by going for a hike, having a broad back to carry the weight of his backpack.
  • The coach has a broad back, bearing the pressure and criticism when the team doesn't perform well.
  • Being an entrepreneur requires having a broad back because starting a business comes with many challenges and uncertainties.
  • While having a broad back to bear the weight of responsibilities, sometimes ignorance is bliss in shielding oneself from unnecessary worries.

Examples of "Having a Broad Back" in Pop Culture

Here are some examples of how "having a broad back" has found its place in popular culture:

  • In the movie Rocky, the titular character, played by Sylvester Stallone, exhibits a broad back as he overcomes numerous obstacles in his life and boxing career.
  • In the song "The Weight" by The Band, the lyrics "Take a load off Fanny, and...put the load right on me" reflect the concept of having a broad back.
  • The character Samwise Gamgee from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings series is a clear example of someone with a broad back as he carries Frodo and their shared mission to its conclusion.
  • In the TV series Breaking Bad, Walter White develops a broad back as he takes drastic measures to provide for his family after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.
  • In the song "Carry You" by Ruelle, the lyrics "I will carry you when you need a friend, you'll find my footprints in the sand" embody the theme of having a broad back.
  • The TV series Game of Thrones showcases several characters with broad backs, notably Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, who carry heavy responsibilities.
  • In the superhero genre, characters like Superman and Wonder Woman symbolize the concept of having a broad back as they shoulder the safety of humanity.
  • In the book To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Atticus Finch displays a broad back as he stands against societal prejudice and injustice.

Other Ways to Say "Having a Broad Back" in Sentences

Here are some alternative ways to express the same concept:

  • She bears her burdens with grace.
  • He carries the weight of the world on his shoulders.
  • She stands strong no matter what comes her way.
  • He's got a strong backbone, handling pressure well.
  • She holds up under stress like a pillar.
  • He is resilient in the face of adversity.
  • She is the rock that supports her family through hardships.
  • He shows great endurance, no matter what life throws at him.
  • She stands firm even when life gives her a beating.
  • He bears the load with a strong heart and steady hand.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Having a Broad Back"

  • Is "having a broad back" a compliment?

Yes, it is generally considered a compliment as it refers to a person's resilience and ability to bear burdens.

  • Can "having a broad back" have a negative connotation?

While it is generally positive, it can imply that a person is being burdened with more responsibilities or pressures than they should bear.

  • Does "having a broad back" refer to physical strength?

No, it refers to emotional and mental strength, although it originates from the physical symbolism of being able to carry heavy loads.

  • Can I use "having a broad back" to refer to an organization?

Yes, it can be used metaphorically to refer to organizations that can bear heavy responsibilities or withstand significant challenges.

  • Is "having a broad back" used in formal writing?

It is more common in informal or figurative speech, but it can be used in formal writing when a metaphorical description of resilience is appropriate.

  • Can "having a broad back" be used to describe a situation?

It's typically used to describe a person, but in a broader context, it could metaphorically describe a situation that requires resilience or endurance.

  • Is "having a broad back" a universal idiom?

While its usage may not be universal, the concept it represents resilience, strength, and the ability to bear burdens—is universally understood.

  • What is the synonym of "having a broad back"?

"Being resilient", "bearing burdens", "standing strong", or "showing fortitude" can be used as synonyms.

  • Can "having a broad back" be used to describe a woman?

Yes, it can be used to describe anyone, regardless of gender, who shows resilience and strength in carrying burdens.

  • What is the opposite of "having a broad back"?

Phrases like "falling apart under pressure", "unable to carry the load", or "buckling under weight" would be the opposites.

Final Thoughts About "Having a Broad Back"

Understanding the idiom "having a broad back" provides insight into the human spirit's resilience and the strength we admire in those who carry life's burdens without breaking. So the next time you hear the phrase "having a broad back," remember that it speaks volumes about an individual's emotional strength, resilience, and tenacity. 

  • The phrase signifies an individual's ability to withstand stress, criticism, or adversity.
  • It emphasizes the value we place on mental and emotional fortitude in our society.
  • "Having a broad back" serves as a metaphorical testament to strength and resilience, often used to praise and acknowledge an individual's capacity to endure challenging situations.

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