brass

[OE] Related forms occur in one or two other Germanic languages (such as Middle Low German bras, which meant simply ‘metal’), but essentially brass is a mystery word, of unknown ancestry. Its association with ‘effrontery’ begins in the late 16th century, prefigured by Shakespeare’s ‘face of brass’ in Love’s Labours Lost 1580, and by the first instances of the use of the derived adjective brazen to mean ‘shameless’ (the underlying notion is probably of a face as hard as brass, and therefore unable to show shame). Brass ‘high-ranking people’, as in top brass, comes from brass hat [19], a brat 74 derogatory slang term for a senior military officer with golden insignia on his cap.

The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins. 2013.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Brass — Brass, n.; pl. {Brasses}. [OE. bras, bres, AS. br[ae]s; akin to Icel. bras cement, solder, brasa to harden by fire, and to E. braze, brazen. Cf. 1st & 2d {Braze}.] 1. An alloy (usually yellow) of copper and zinc, in variable proportion, but often …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • brass — [bra:s US bræs] n ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ 1¦(metal)¦ 2¦(music)¦ 3¦(decorations)¦ 4 get down to brass tacks 5¦(people with top jobs)¦ 6 it s brass monkeys/brass monkey weather 7¦(money)¦ ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ [: Old English; Origin: brAs] 1.) ¦(METAL)¦ …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • brass — [ bræs ] noun ** 1. ) uncount a shiny yellow metal that is used for making musical instruments and objects such as door handles. It is a mixture of COPPER and ZINC: a faucet made of brass doors with brass hinges a ) count a flat piece of brass… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • brass — ► NOUN 1) a yellow alloy of copper and zinc. 2) (also horse brass) a flat brass ornament for the harness of a draught horse. 3) Brit. a memorial consisting of a flat piece of inscribed brass in the wall or floor of a church. 4) brass wind… …   English terms dictionary

  • Brass — ist: die englische Bezeichnung für Messing eine gängige Bezeichnung für Blasmusik mit Blechblasinstrumenten aus Messing eine Stadt in Nigeria, siehe Brass (Nigeria) Brass ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Arnold Braß (1854–1915), deutscher …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • brass — [bras, bräs] n. pl. brasses [ME bras < OE bræs, brass, bronze] 1. a yellowish metal that is essentially an alloy of copper and zinc 2. things made of brass, as fittings, ornaments, or implements 3. [often with pl. v.] the brass instruments of… …   English World dictionary

  • brass — brass; brass·bound·er; brass·ie; brass·i·ly; brass·i·ness; ze·brass; brass·ey; steen·brass; …   English syllables

  • brass´i|ly — brass|y «BRAS ee, BRAHS », adjective, brass|i|er, brass|i|est, noun, plural brass|ies. –adj. 1. of or covered with brass. 2. like brass: » …   Useful english dictionary

  • brass|y — «BRAS ee, BRAHS », adjective, brass|i|er, brass|i|est, noun, plural brass|ies. –adj. 1. of or covered with brass. 2. like brass: » …   Useful english dictionary

  • brass — [brɑːs ǁ bræs] noun [uncountable] informal the top managers in an organization; = TOP BRASS: • Mr Sprey and the Air Force brass clashed continually over major elements of the plane s design. * * * brass UK US /brɑːs/ noun [U] ► WORK …   Financial and business terms

  • brass — (n.) O.E. bræs brass, bronze, originally in reference to an alloy of copper and tin (now bronze), later and in modern use an alloy of two parts copper, one part zinc. A mystery word, with no known cognates beyond English. Perhaps akin to Fr.… …   Etymology dictionary

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