Larger font
Smaller font
Etymology dictionary - Contents
  • Results
  • Related
  • Featured
No results found for: "".
  • Weighted Relevancy
  • Content Sequence
  • Relevancy
  • Earliest First
  • Latest First
    Larger font
    Smaller font

    brackish (adj.) — breadth (n.)

    brackish (adj.)

    of water, "somewhat salty," 1530s, from Scottish brack "salty" (see brack) + -ish. Related: Brackishly; brackishness.ETD brackish (adj.).2

    bract (n.)

    in botany, "small leaf beneath a flower," Modern Latin, from Latin bractea, literally "thin metal plate," a word of unknown origin. Related: Bracteal; bracteate.ETD bract (n.).2

    brad (n.)

    "small flat nail having instead of a head a slight projection on one side," late 13c., brod, from Old Norse broddr "spike, point, arrow," from Proto-Germanic *brozda- (source also of Old English brord "point, prick, blade of grass," Old High German brort "point, edge, crown"), from PIE *bhrs-dh-, from root *bhars- "projectile, point, bristle" (see bristle (n.)).ETD brad (n.).2


    medical word-forming element meaning "slow, delayed, tardy," from Greek bradys "slow;" as in bradycardia (1890), with Latinized form of Greek kardia "heart;" bradykinesia, "slow movement," with Greek kinēsis "movement, motion;" bradypnea, with Greek pneo/pnein "to breathe."ETD brady-.2


    masc. proper name, originally a surname, from various places in England, literally "the broad clearing," from Old English elements brad (see broad (adj.)) + leah (see lea). Most popular in U.S. c. 1965-1995.ETD Bradley.2

    brae (n.)

    "steep slope," in northern England especially "the side of a hill," early 14c., from Scottish, "slope, river bank," perhaps from Old Norse bra "eyelash," cognate with Old English bræw "eyelid," German Braue "eyebrow" (see brow). "The word must have passed through the sense of 'eye-brow' to 'brow of a hill', supercilium (cf. OE. eaghill 'eye-hill'=eyebrow)" [OED].ETD brae (n.).2

    brag (n.)

    late 14c., "pomp; arrogance, pride;" see brag (v.); the exact relationship of the noun and verb is uncertain. The meaning "that which is boasted" is from 1530s. As a once-popular poker-like card game, from 1734.ETD brag (n.).2

    brag (v.)

    late 14c., braggen "to make a loud sound," also "to talk boastfully," of obscure origin, perhaps related to bray of a trumpet and imitative, or related to the Middle English adjective brag "ostentatious, proud; spirited, brave" (early 14c.), which probably is from Celtic, and is the source of the surname Bragg (attested from mid-13c.). Perhaps a merger of the two. Other sources suggest Old Norse bragr "the best, the toast (of anything)," also "poetry." Also see braggart for another possibility, but French brague seems too late to be the source. Related: Bragged; bragging.ETD brag (v.).2


    city in Portugal (Portuguese Bragança), from Celtic briga "height." Catherine of Braganza (1638-1705) was the wife of Charles II.ETD Braganza.2

    braggadocio (n.)

    1590, coined by Spenser as the name of his personification of vainglory ("Faerie Queene," ii.3), from brag, with augmentative ending from Italian words then in vogue in English. In general use by 1594 for "an empty swaggerer;" of the talk of such persons, from 1734.ETD braggadocio (n.).2

    braggart (n.)

    "a boaster," 1570s, formerly also braggard, from French bragard (16c.), with pejorative ending (see -ard) + braguer "to flaunt, brag," perhaps originally "to show off clothes, especially breeches," from brague "breeches" (see bracket (n.)). There may be an element of codpiece-flaunting in all this.ETD braggart (n.).2

    Also as an adjective, "vain, boastful" (1610s). The word in English has been at least influenced by brag (v.), even if, as some claim, it is unrelated to it. Bragger "arrogant or boastful person," agent noun from brag (v.), is attested in English from late 14c. and has become practically a variant of this word.ETD braggart (n.).3


    1785, from Sanskrit Brahma, nominative of Brahman, chief god of the trinity Brahma-Vishnu-Siva in post-Vedic Hindu religion (see brahmin).ETD Brahma.2


    see Brahmin.ETD Brahman.2


    river in Asia, Hindi, literally "son of Brahma."ETD Brahmaputra.2

    Brahmin (n.)

    also Brahman, "member of the highest priestly Hindu caste," late 14c., Bragman, from Sanskrit brahmana-s, from brahman- "prayer," also "the universal soul, the Absolute," which is of uncertain origin. Related to Brahma. The American English figurative meaning "member of Boston's upper class" is from 1823.ETD Brahmin (n.).2

    bray (n.)

    "a harsh cry," especially that of an ass, c. 1300, from bray (v.).ETD bray (n.).2

    bray (v.)

    "utter a loud and harsh cry," c. 1300, from Old French braire "to cry," from Gallo-Roman *bragire "to cry out" (11c.), perhaps from a Celtic source (compare Gaelic braigh "to shriek, crackle"), probably imitative. Related: Brayed; braying.ETD bray (v.).2

    braid (n.)

    c. 1200, "a deceit, stratagem, trick;" c. 1300, "sudden or quick movement," in part from stem found in Old English gebrægd "craft, fraud," gebregd "commotion," Old Norse bragð "deed, trick," and in part from or influenced by related braid (v.). The meaning "anything plaited or entwined" (especially hair) is from 1520s.ETD braid (n.).2

    braid (v.)

    "plait, knit, weave, twist together," c. 1200, breidan, from Old English bregdan "move quickly, pull, shake, swing, throw (in wrestling), draw (a sword); bend, weave, knit, join together; change color, vary; scheme, feign, pretend" (class III strong verb, past tense brægd, past participle brogden), from Proto-Germanic *bregdanan "make sudden jerky movements from side to side" (compare Old Norse bregða "brandish, turn about, move quickly; braid;" Old Saxon bregdan "weave, braid;" Old Frisian brida "twitch (the eye);" Dutch breien "knit;" Old High German brettan "draw, weave, braid"), perhaps from a PIE root *bhrek- (compare Sanskrit bhurati "moves quickly," Lithuanian bruzdùs "fast"), but there are phonetic difficulties. In English the verb survives only in the narrow definition of "plait hair." Related: Braided; braiding.ETD braid (v.).2

    braids (n.)

    1520s; see braid (n.).ETD braids (n.).2

    braided (adj.)

    "interwoven in strands or strips," as hair, late 15c., past-participle adjective from braid (v.). Of streams from 1901.ETD braided (adj.).2

    braidism (n.)

    "hypnotism," 1849, from the name of hypnosis pioneer Dr. James Braid (see hypnosis).ETD braidism (n.).2

    brail (n.)

    small rope used on ships, mid-15c., from Old French brail, earlier braiel "belt, leather thong" (in falconry), from Latin bracale "waistbelt," from bracæ "breeches" (plural, see breeches).ETD brail (n.).2

    Braille (n., adj.)

    "system of embossed printing used as an alphabet for the blind," 1853, from Louis Braille (1809-1852), French musician and teacher, blind from age 3, who devised it c. 1830.ETD Braille (n., adj.).2

    brain (n.)

    "soft, grayish mass filling the cranial cavity of a vertebrate," in the broadest sense, "organ of consciousness and the mind," Old English brægen "brain," from Proto-Germanic *bragnan (source also of Middle Low German bregen, Old Frisian and Dutch brein), a word of uncertain origin, perhaps from PIE root *mregh-m(n)o- "skull, brain" (source also of Greek brekhmos "front part of the skull, top of the head").ETD brain (n.).2

    But Liberman writes that brain "has no established cognates outside West Germanic" and is not connected to the Greek word. More probably, he writes, its etymon is PIE *bhragno "something broken."ETD brain (n.).3

    The custom of using the plural to refer to the substance (literal or figurative), as opposed to the organ, dates from 16c. The figurative sense of "intellectual power" is from late 14c.; the meaning "a clever person" is recorded by 1914.ETD brain (n.).4

    To have something on the brain "be extremely eager for or interested in" is from 1862. Brain-fart "sudden loss of memory or train of thought; sudden inability to think logically" is by 1991 (brain-squirt is from 1650s as "feeble or abortive attempt at reasoning"). An Old English word for "head" was brægnloca, which might be translated as "brain locker." In Middle English, brainsick (Old English brægenseoc) meant "mad, addled."ETD brain (n.).5

    brain (v.)

    "to dash the brains out," late 14c., from brain (n.). Related: Brained; braining.ETD brain (v.).2

    brain-child (n.)

    "idea, creation of one's own mind," 1850, from brain (n.) + child. Earlier was the alliterative brain-brat (1630).ETD brain-child (n.).2

    brain-coral (n.)

    popular name of a type of coral, 1709, from brain (n.) + coral; so called for its appearance.ETD brain-coral (n.).2

    brain-dead (adj.)

    "suffering complete loss of brain functioning," 1971 (brain death is from 1968), from brain (n.) + dead. Popularized in U.S. 1975 by journalistic coverage of the Karen Anne Quinlan case.ETD brain-dead (adj.).2

    brain-drain (n.)

    "emigration of experts and trained people to richer countries from poorer ones," 1963, from brain (n.) + drain (n.).ETD brain-drain (n.).2

    brainy (adj.)

    1832, "resembling brain matter;" 1845, "intelligent, clever," from brain (n.) + -y (2). The Latin equivalent cerebrosus meant "passionate, enraged, hot-headed," leading Tucker to remark that " 'Brainy' is not a natural expression for 'frantic.' "ETD brainy (adj.).2

    brainiac (n.)

    "very smart person," 1982, U.S. slang, from brain (n.) + ending from ENIAC, etc. Brainiac also was the name of a comic-book villain in the Superman series and a do-it-yourself computer building kit, both from the late 1950s, and the word may bear traces of either or both of these.ETD brainiac (n.).2

    brainless (adj.)

    late 15c., "witless, stupid," from brain (n.) + -less. Related: Brainlessly; brainlessness.ETD brainless (adj.).2

    brain-stem (n.)

    "central trunk of a mammal's brain," 1875, from German; see brain (n.) + stem (n.).ETD brain-stem (n.).2

    brainstorm (n.)

    also brain-storm, by 1861 as a colloquial term for "fit of acute delirious mania; sudden dethronement of reason and will under stress of strong emotion, usually accompanied by manifestations of violence," from brain (n.) + storm (n.), which is attested in medical use as "paroxysm or violent intensifying" of a disease, symptom, etc., by 1540s.ETD brainstorm (n.).2

    The sense of "brilliant idea, mental excitement, fit of mental application," is by 1934 and seems to have evolved from the earlier sense:ETD brainstorm (n.).3

    The verbal meaning "make a concerted attack on a problem, involving spontaneous ideas," is by 1947. Related: Brainstormed; brainstorming.ETD brainstorm (n.).4

    brain-teaser (n.)

    "difficult puzzle or problem," 1893, from brain (n.) + agent noun from tease (v.).ETD brain-teaser (n.).2

    brain trust (n.)

    "group of experts assembled to give advice on some matter," occasionally used since early 1900s, it became current in 1933, in reference to the intellectuals gathered by the administration of incoming U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt as advisers; from brain (n.) + trust (n.).ETD brain trust (n.).2

    brainwashing (n.)

    "attempt to alter or control the thoughts and beliefs of another person against his will by psychological techniques," 1950, said to be a literal translation of Chinese xi nao. A term from the Korean War.ETD brainwashing (n.).2

    brainwash (v.)

    1955, probably back-formation from brainwashing. The past-participle adjective brainwashed is attested from 1953.ETD brainwash (v.).2

    brain-wave (n.)

    "apparent telepathic vibration transferring a thought from one person to another without any other medium," 1869, from brain (n.) + wave (n.).ETD brain-wave (n.).2

    braise (v.)

    "to stew in a closed pan with heat from above and below," 1797, braze, from French braiser "to stew, cook over live coals" (17c.), from braise "live coals," from Old French brese "embers" (12c.), ultimately (along with Italian bragia, Spanish brasa) from Proto-Germanic *brasa, from PIE root *bhreu- "to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn." Related: Braised; braising.ETD braise (v.).2

    brake (n.1)

    mid-15c., "instrument for crushing or pounding," from Middle Dutch braeke "flax brake," from breken "to break" (see break (v.)). The word was applied to many crushing implements, especially the tool for breaking up the woody part of flax to loosen the fibers. It also was applied to the ring through the nose of a draught ox. It was influenced in sense by Old French brac, a form of bras "an arm," thus the sense "a lever or handle," which was being used in English from late 14c., and "a bridle or curb" (early 15c.).ETD brake (n.1).2

    One or the other sense or a convergence of all of them yielded the main modern meaning "mechanical device for arresting the motion of a wheel," which is attested by 1772.ETD brake (n.1).3

    brake (v.)

    "to apply a brake to a wheel," 1868, from brake (n.1). Earlier, "to beat flax" (late 14c.). Related: Braked; braking.ETD brake (v.).2

    brake (n.2)

    kind of fern, early 14c.; see bracken.ETD brake (n.2).2

    brake (n.3)

    "thicket; place overgrown with bushes, brambles, or brushwood," mid-15c., originally "fern-brake, thicket of fern," perhaps from or related to Middle Low German brake "rough or broken ground," from the root of break (v.). Or, more likely, from Middle English brake "fern" (c. 1300), from Old Norse (compare Swedish bräken, Danish bregne), and related to bracken. In the U.S., the word was applied to cane thickets.ETD brake (n.3).2

    brakeman (n.)

    "brake operator on a railroad train," 1833, from brake (n.1) + man (n.).ETD brakeman (n.).2

    bramble (n.)

    Old English bræmbel "rough, prickly shrub" (especially the blackberry bush), with euphonic -b- (which then caused the vowel to shorten), from earlier bræmel, from Proto-Germanic *bræmaz (see broom). Related: Brambleberry "blackberry" (late Old English).ETD bramble (n.).2

    bran (n.)

    "the husk of wheat, barley, etc., separated from the flour after grinding," c. 1300, from Old French bren "bran, scurf, scales, feces" (12c., Modern French bran), perhaps from Celtic and connected with Gaulish *brenno- "manure" (but OED is against this) or with burn (v.). The word also was used 16c. in English for "dandruff flakes."ETD bran (n.).2

    branch (n.)

    c. 1300, braunch, "division or subdivision of the stem of a tree or bush" (also used of things resembling a branch in its relation to a trunk, such as geographic features, lines of family descent), from Old French branche "branch, bough, twig; branch of a family" (12c.), from Late Latin branca "footprint," later "a claw, paw," which is of unknown origin, said to be probably from Gaulish. The connecting notion would be the shape (compare pedigree).ETD branch (n.).2

    In English it replaced native bough. The meaning "local office of a business" is recorded by 1817, from the earlier sense of "component part of a system" (1690s).ETD branch (n.).3

    branch (v.)

    "send out shoots or new limbs," late 14c., also, of blood vessels, family trees, etc., "be forked," from branch (n.). The meaning "spread out from a center, radiate" is from c. 1400. Related: Branched; branching.ETD branch (v.).2

    branchial (adj.)

    "of or pertaining to gills," 1774, from Modern Latin branchialis, from Latin branchiae "gills," from Greek brankhia "gills," plural of brankhion "fin." Related: Branchiate.ETD branchial (adj.).2


    word-forming element used in scientific compounds since mid-18c., meaning "of or pertaining to "gills," from Latinized form of Greek brankhia "gills" (singular brankhion), which seems to be related somehow to brankhos "hoarseness," with influence somewhere from bronkhos "windpipe."ETD branchio-.2

    brand (v.)

    c. 1400, "to impress or burn a mark upon with a hot iron, cauterize; stigmatize," originally of criminal marks or cauterized wounds, from brand (n.). Figuratively, often in a bad sense, "fix a character of infamy upon," mid-15c., with the criminal marking in mind. As a means of marking ownership or quality of property, 1580s. Related: Branded; branding.ETD brand (v.).2

    brand (n.)

    Old English brand, brond "fire, flame, destruction by fire; firebrand, piece of burning wood, torch," and (poetic) "sword," from Proto-Germanic *brandaz "a burning" (source also of Old Norse brandr, Old High German brant, Old Frisian brond "firebrand; blade of a sword," German brand "fire"), from PIE root *gwher- "to heat, warm."ETD brand (n.).2

    The meaning "iron instrument for branding" is from 1828. The meaning "mark made by a hot iron" (1550s), especially on a cask, etc., to identify the maker or quality of its contents, had broadened by 1827 to include marks made in other ways, then to "a particular make of goods" (1854). Brand-name is from 1889; brand-loyalty from 1961. Old French brand, brant, Italian brando "sword" are from Germanic (compare brandish).ETD brand (n.).3


    region in northeastern Germany, traditionally said to be ultimately from Slavic, but perhaps German and meaning literally "burned fortress," or else from a Celtic proper name. In reference to a kind of ornamental button with loops, worn on the front of men's coats, by 1753, probably from Prussian military uniforms; later extended to ornamental buttons on women's dress (1873).ETD Brandenburg.2

    brandy (n.)

    "spirits distilled from other liquors" (especially wine), 1650s, abbreviation of brandy-wine (1620s) from Dutch brandewijn "burnt wine," earlier brand-wijn, so called because it is distilled (compare German cognate Branntwein and Czech palenka "brandy," from paliti "to burn"). The Brandywine Creek in Pennsylvania, site of the 1777 Revolutionary War battle, supposedly was so named 17c. by the Dutch explorers for the color of its waters.ETD brandy (n.).2

    brandish (v.)

    "move or raise," as a weapon, mid-14c., from Old French brandiss-, present participle stem of brandir "to flourish (a sword)" (12c.), from brant "blade of a sword, prow of a ship," which is from Frankish or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *brandaz "a burning," from PIE root *gwher- "to heat, warm." Spanish blandir, Italian brandire are likewise from Germanic. Related: Brandished; brandishing.ETD brandish (v.).2

    brand-new (adj.)

    "quite new," 1560s, from brand (n.) + new. The notion is "new as a glowing metal fresh from the forge" (Shakespeare has fire-new; Middle English had span-neue "brand new," c. 1300, from Old Norse span-nyr, from span "chip of wood," perhaps as something likely to be new-made). Popularly bran-new.ETD brand-new (adj.).2

    branks (n.)

    "scolding-bridle," an iron-frame headpiece with a flat iron piece to be inserted in the mouth to still the tongue, formerly used in Scotland and later in parts of England "for correcting scolding women" [Century Dictionary], 1590s, of unknown origin. Perhaps from a North Sea Germanic language. Earlier as a verb, "to bridle, restrain" (1570s).ETD branks (n.).2

    Brannock device (n.)

    standard foot-measuring tool used for determining shoe size, patented 1926 and 1927 and named for its inventor Charles Brannock (1903-1992), son of the owner of a popular Syracuse, N.Y., shoe store.ETD Brannock device (n.).2


    fem. proper name, from Welsh bran "raven" + (g)wen "fair" (literally "visible," from nasalized form of PIE root *weid- "to see"). Daughter of Llyr, she was a legendary heroine of Wales.ETD Branwen.2

    brash (adj.)

    "impetuous, rash, hasty in temper," 1824, of obscure origin, perhaps originally American English; perhaps akin to 16c. Scottish brash "attack, assault," or French breche "fragments," especially of ice, which is from a Germanic source (compare Old High German brehha "breach," from brehhan "to break," from PIE root *bhreg- "to break"). Or perhaps akin to German brechen "to vomit." Not considered to be connected with rash (adj.) though they mean the same. Related: Rashly; rashness.ETD brash (adj.).2


    see Brazil.ETD brasil.2

    brass (n.)

    "yellow malleable alloy metal, harder than copper," Old English bræs "brass, bronze," originally any alloy of copper, in England usually with tin (this is now called bronze), later and in modern use an alloy of roughly two parts copper to one part zinc. A mystery word, with no known cognates beyond English. Perhaps akin to French brasser "to brew," because it is an alloy. It also has been compared to Old Swedish brasa "fire," but no sure connection can be made. Yet another theory connects it with Latin ferrum "iron," itself of obscure origin.ETD brass (n.).2

    Words for "brass" in other languages (such as German Messing, Old English mæsling, French laiton, Italian ottone) also tend to be difficult to explain. As brass was unknown in early antiquity (it was well-known to Strabo, 1c., but not mentioned by Homer), the use of the English word in Bible translations, etc., likely means "bronze." The Romans were the first to deliberately make it.ETD brass (n.).3

    Rhetorically or figuratively it was the common type of hardness, durability, or obduracy since late 14c. The meaning "effrontery, impudence, excessive assurance" is from 1620s. The slang sense of "high officials" is first recorded 1899, from their insignia. The meaning "brass musical instruments of a band" is from 1832.ETD brass (n.).4

    brass (adj.)

    "made of brass," c. 1400, from brass (n.). Compare brazen (adj.). Slang brass balls "toughness, courage" (emphatically combining two words that serve as metaphors for the same thing) is attested by 1960s. Brass-band is from 1827.ETD brass (adj.).2

    The figurative brass tacks "essentials of a matter" that you get down to (1897, popular from c. 1910) perhaps are the ones said to have been nailed to the counters of a dry goods stores and used to measure cloth, suggesting precision, but the metaphor was unclear from the start, and brass tacks or nails in late 19c. were commonly noted as being used in upholstering. A 1911 advertisement begins " 'Getting down to brass tacks' is a characteristic American slang phrase, full of suggestion but of obscure origin."ETD brass (adj.).3

    The figurative brass monkey that suffers anatomical loss in freezing weather is attested by 1843:ETD brass (adj.).4

    Melville ("Omoo," 1847) has a twist on the image in "hot enough to melt the nose h'off a brass monkey."ETD brass (adj.).5

    brass (v.)

    "to coat or cover with brass," 1865, from brass (n.). Compare braze (v.2). Related: Brassed; brassing.ETD brass (v.).2

    brasserie (n.)

    "beer saloon in which food is served," 1864, from French brasserie "beer-garden attached to a brewery," from brasser "to brew," from Latin brace "grain used to prepare malt," said by Pliny to be a Celtic word (compare Welsh brag "malt").ETD brasserie (n.).2

    brassy (adj.)

    "impudent," 1570s, from brass (n.) + -y (2). Compare brazen. The literal sense of "coated with brass" is from 1580s. The sense of "debased and pretentious" is from 1580s, from brass as contrasted with gold; the sense of "strident and artificial" is from 1865. Related: Brassily; brassiness.ETD brassy (adj.).2

    brassiere (n.)

    "form-fitting undergarment to support a woman's breasts," by 1902, a euphemistic borrowing in the garment trade, from French brassière "child's chemise; shoulder strap" (17c.), from Old French braciere "arm guard" (14c.), from bras "an arm," from Latin bracchium "an arm," from Greek brakhion "an arm" (see brachio-). The French word was used 18c. in the sense "woman's underbodice."ETD brassiere (n.).2

    brat (n.)

    c. 1400, "a cloak of coarse cloth" (Chaucer); probably the same word as Old English bratt "cloak," which is from a Celtic source (compare Old Irish bratt "cloak, cloth").ETD brat (n.).2

    As a term for a child, William Dunbar's Flyting (c. 1500) is usually cited as first use; but Dictionaries of the Scots Language questions whether Dunbar's use means "child" or "garment." The child sense is clearly attested by 1530s. The transferred meaning is perhaps from the notion of "child's apron," but OED notes "evidence of the transition of sense has not been found." In earliest uses the implication is of an unwanted or unplanned child rather than a reference to behavior; differing from a bastard in that a married couple might have a brat.ETD brat (n.).3

    Hollywood Brat Pack (modeled on 1950s Rat Pack) is from 1985. Brattery "nursery" is attested from 1788.ETD brat (n.).4


    capital of Slovakia, a Slavic settlement named for its founder or chief; the name is the same element in the first half of the German name for the city, Pressburg (9c.).ETD Bratislava.2

    bratty (adj.)

    "spoiled and juvenile," 1929, from brat + -y (2). Earlier brattish is by 1590s.ETD bratty (adj.).2

    bratwurst (n.)

    type of sausage, 1904, from German Bratwurst, from wurst + Brät "lean meat, finely chipped calf or swine meat," from Old High German brato (12c.), from Proto-Germanic *bred-on- "roast flesh" (source also of Old English bræd "meat, flesh;" compare brawn), from PIE root *bhreu- "to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn." German folk etymology derives Brät from braten "to roast, bake, broil, grill;" more likely both are from the same ancient source.ETD bratwurst (n.).2


    German manufacturing company, named for founder Max Braun, mechanical engineer in Frankfurt am Main (1921).ETD Braun.2

    bravado (n.)

    1580s, "ostentatious courage, pretentious boldness," from French bravade "bragging, boasting," from Italian bravata "bragging, boasting" (16c.), from bravare "brag, boast, be defiant," from bravo "brave, bold" (see brave (adj.)). The English word was influenced in form by Spanish words ending in -ado. It also was used as a noun 17c.-18c., "swaggering fellow."ETD bravado (n.).2

    brave (adj.)

    "exhibiting courage or courageous endurance," late 15c., from French brave, "splendid, valiant," from Italian bravo "brave, bold," originally "wild, savage," a word of uncertain origin. Possibly from Medieval Latin bravus "cutthroat, villain," from Latin pravus "crooked, depraved;" a less likely etymology being from Latin barbarus (see barbarous). A Celtic origin (Irish breagh, Cornish bray) also has been suggested, and there may be a confusion of two or more words. Related: Bravely.ETD brave (adj.).2

    Old English words for this, some with overtones of "rashness," included modig (now "moody"), beald ("bold"), cene ("keen"), dyrstig ("daring"). Brave new world is from the title of Aldous Huxley's 1932 satirical utopian novel; he lifted the phrase from Shakespeare ("Tempest" v.i.183).ETD brave (adj.).3

    brave (n.)

    "North American Indian warrior," 1827, from brave (adj.). Earlier "a hector, a bully" (1590s); "brave, bold, or daring person" (c. 1600). Compare bravado, bravo.ETD brave (n.).2

    brave (v.)

    "to face with bravery," 1761, from French braver, from brave "valiant" (see brave (adj.)). Related: Braved; braving.ETD brave (v.).2

    bravery (n.)

    1540s, "daring, defiance, boasting," from French braverie, from braver "to brave" (see brave (adj.)) or else from cognate Italian braveria, from bravare.ETD bravery (n.).2

    The original deprecatory sense is obsolete; as a good quality attested perhaps from 1580s, but it is not always possible to distinguish the senses. The meaning "fine clothes, showiness" is from 1560s and holds the older notion of ostentatious pretense.ETD bravery (n.).3

    bravo (interj.)

    "well done!," 1761, from Italian bravo, literally "brave" (see brave (adj.)). Earlier in English it was a noun meaning "desperado, hired killer" (1590s). The superlative form is bravissimo.ETD bravo (interj.).2

    bravura (n.)

    1788, "a spirited, florid piece of music requiring great skill in the performer," from Italian bravura "bravery, spirit" (see brave (adj.)). The sense of "display of brilliancy, dash" is from 1813.ETD bravura (n.).2

    braw (adj.)

    "handsome, worthy, excellent," a Scottish English formation and pronunciation of brave.ETD braw (adj.).2

    brawl (n.)

    mid-15c., "noisy disturbance," from brawl (v.). The meaning "fist-fight" is by 1873.ETD brawl (n.).2

    brawl (v.)

    late 14c., braulen "to cry out, scold, quarrel," probably related to Dutch brallen "to boast," or from French brailler "to shout noisily," frequentative of braire "to bray" (see bray (v.)). The meaning "quarrel, wrangle, squabble" is from early 15c. Related: Brawled; brawler; brawling.ETD brawl (v.).2

    brawn (n.)

    late 13c., "boar's flesh;" early 14c., "flesh of a muscular part of the body," from Old French braon "fleshy or muscular part, buttock," from Frankish *brado "ham, roast" or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *bred-on- (source also of Old High German brato "tender meat," German Braten "roast," Old Norse brað "raw meat," Old English bræd "flesh"), from PIE *bhre- "burn, heat," from root *bhreu- "to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn."ETD brawn (n.).2

    The etymological sense is "piece of meat suitable for roasting." "The specific sense 'boar's flesh' is exclusively of English development, and characteristic of English habits" [OED]. The meaning "well-developed muscles, muscular strength" is from 1865.ETD brawn (n.).3

    brawny (adj.)

    1590s, "bulky and strong, characterized by muscle," from brawn + -y (2). Related: Brawniness.ETD brawny (adj.).2

    Braxton Hicks

    in reference to uterine contractions in pregnancy, 1905, from the name of English obstetrician John Braxton Hicks, who described them in 1872.ETD Braxton Hicks.2

    braze (v.1)

    1580s, "to expose to the action of fire" perhaps (but the sense evolution is odd) from French braser "to solder," in Old French, "to burn," related to brese "embers," ultimately from West Germanic *brasa, from PIE root *bhreu- "to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn." Related: Brazed; brazing. The sense of "to solder" is attested in English from 1670s.ETD braze (v.1).2

    braze (v.2)

    "to make of or cover in brass," Old English brasian "to do work in brass, make of brass," from bræs (see brass (n.)). Compare glaze from glass.ETD braze (v.2).2

    brazen (adj.)

    Old English bræsen "of brass," from bræs "brass" (see brass (n.)) + -en (2). The figurative sense of "hardened in effrontery" is from 1570s (in brazen-faced), perhaps suggesting a face unable to show shame. To brazen it "face impudently" is from 1550s. Related: Brazenly.ETD brazen (adj.).2

    brazier (n.)

    "metal container to hold live coals," 1680s, from French brasier "pan of hot coals," from Old French brasier, from brese "embers," ultimately from West Germanic *brasa (compare braze (v.1)), from PIE root *bhreu- "to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn."ETD brazier (n.).2


    early 14c., brasile, "brasilwood," name of a type of red wood from an East Indian tree, used in making dye (in modern times known as sappan-wood or Indian redwood), from Medieval Latin brasilium, Old French bresil, which probably is related to brese "embers," and like it from a Germanic source (compare braze (v.1)), from PIE root *bhreu- "to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn," and so called for resemblance of color to a glowing ember.ETD Brazil.2

    But as the product came to Europe via India perhaps this is a folk-etymology of some word in Arabic or another Asian language (an Old Italian form, verzino, suggests to some a possible connection with Arabic wars "saffron"). The same word for the same stuff entered Portuguese and Spanish (brasil) and Italian (brasile).ETD Brazil.3

    The South American country was named Santa Cruz by its "discoverer," Pedro Alvarez Cabral (1500), but within a decade on maps it began to be called terra de brasil "red-dyewood land" because it produced a valuable red dyewood similar to East Indian type, and that name predominated from 1550s.ETD Brazil.4

    Complicating matters is Hy Brasil, a name attested since early 14c. for a legendary island or rock in the North Atlantic off the west coast of Ireland. It is so-called perhaps from the "red dyewood" word by association with Pliny's Insulae Purpurariae ("Purple Islands") in the Atlantic off the coast of Morocco.ETD Brazil.5


    capital of Republic of Congo, named for French explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, who founded it in 1883. An Italian count, his title is from the Adriatic island of Brazza, now Brač in Croatia.ETD Brazzaville.2


    by 1996, internet chat acronym for be right back.ETD brb.2

    breach (n.)

    Old English bryce "a fracture, act of breaking," from Proto-Germanic *brukiz (source also of Old Frisian breke "a burst, crack, demolition (of a house)," Old Saxon bruki, Old High German bruh, Middle Dutch broke), a noun from *brekanan (source of Old English brecan "to shatter, burst; injure, violate, destroy, curtail;" see break (v.)). The English word was influenced by Old French cognate breche "breach, opening, gap," which is from Frankish or another Germanic source. Ultimately from PIE root *bhreg- "to break."ETD breach (n.).2

    The figurative sense of "infraction, violation, a breaking of rules, etc." was in Old English. The meaning "opening made by breaking" is from late 14c. That of "rupture of friendly relations" is from 1570s. Breach of contract is from at least 1660s; breach of peace "violation of public order" is from 1670s; breach of promise (usually promise of marriage) is from 1580s.ETD breach (n.).3

    breach (v.)

    "make a breach or opening in," 1570s, from breach (n.). Related: Breached; breaching.ETD breach (v.).2

    bread (v.)

    "to dress with bread crumbs," 1620s, from bread (n.). Related: Breaded; breading.ETD bread (v.).2

    bread (n.)

    "kind of food made from flour or the meal of some grain, kneaded into a dough, fermented, and baked," Old English bread "bit, crumb, morsel; bread," cognate with Old Norse brauð, Danish brød, Old Frisian brad, Middle Dutch brot, Dutch brood, German Brot.ETD bread (n.).2

    According to one theory [Watkins, etc.] from Proto-Germanic *brautham, from PIE root *bhreu- "to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn," in reference to the leavening. But OED argues at some length for the basic sense being not "cooked food" but "piece of food," and the Old English word deriving from a Proto-Germanic *braudsmon- "fragments, bits" (cognate with Old High German brosma "crumb," Old English breotan "to break in pieces") and being related to the root of break (v.). It cites Slovenian kruh "bread," literally "a piece."ETD bread (n.).3

    Either way, by c. 1200 it had replaced the usual Old English word for "bread," which was hlaf (see loaf (n.)).ETD bread (n.).4

    The extended sense of "food, sustenance in general" (late 12c.) is perhaps via the Lord's Prayer. The slang meaning "money" dates from 1940s, but compare breadwinner, and bread as "one's livelihood" dates to 1719. Bread and circuses (1914) is from Latin, in reference to food and entertainment provided by the government to keep the populace content. "Duas tantum res anxius optat, Panem et circenses" [Juvenal, Sat. x.80].ETD bread (n.).5

    bread-and-butter (adj.)

    "pertaining to basic material needs," from the noun phrase, "one's means of living," 1685, a figurative use of the words for the basic foodstuffs; see bread (n.) + butter (n.). Also, in reference to bread-and-butter as the typical food of young boys and girls, "of the age of growth; school-aged" (1620s).ETD bread-and-butter (adj.).2

    bread-basket (n.)

    1550s, "basket for holding bread," from bread (n.) + basket (n.). Slang meaning "belly, stomach" is attested from 1753, especially in pugilism. Another slang term for the belly was pudding-house (1590s).ETD bread-basket (n.).2

    breadth (n.)

    "distance between the sides," late 14c., alteration of brede "breadth," from Old English brædu "breadth, width, extent," from bræd; probably by analogy of long/length.ETD breadth (n.).2

    Larger font
    Smaller font