Breach vs. Breech

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Mind the gap! The famous London Underground announcement can help to remind us when to use breach. Although often confused with breech, breach has an entirely different meaning. It originates from old French and was used in a military sense to denote a gap in fortifications. These days it applies to any gap, break or violation. Examples are:

  • To breach the enemy’s defenses
  • A breach of the peace
  • A breach of the wall

In contrast, breech, which is of uncertain origin, refers to the rear. The better known but now little used breeches refers to the covering for that part of the anatomy. It is also used for the rear of a weapon in the term a breech loading rifle.

By extension, the meaning of breech covers something that is facing the wrong way, hence a breech birth.

Here are some quotations from newspapers that illustrate the usage:

… her patient, at Ninewells hospital in Dundee, an emergency caesarean section because the premature infant was in a breech position but instead attempted to carry out the delivery naturally, it was alleged. … (www.theguardian.com)

… husband started in the 1970s. She pulled up to the community center, where she would be teaching a class on delivering breech babies. The class was part of a weeklong seminar Gaskin and her fellow midwives were offering to an eclectic … (www.nytimes.com)

…The Office of Civil Rights launched an investigation following the three breaches and found that MD Anderson had, in fact, written encryption policies dating as far back back to 2006. The … (www.chron.com)

… and a huge embarrassment for C.I.A. officials.Now, the prime suspect in the breach has been identified: a 29-year-old former C.I.A. software engineer who had designed malware used to break into the … (www.nytimes.com)

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