[bras, brahs]



Origin of brass

before 1000; 1945–50 for def 5; Middle English bras, Old English bræs; cognate with Old Frisian bres copper, Middle Low German bras metal
Related formsbrass·ish, adjective

Synonyms for brass Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for brass

Contemporary Examples of brass

Historical Examples of brass

  • I will go further, and admit that the brass plates may not all be frauds.

  • The visitor's advent was announced again by the brass knocker on the front door.


    W. A. Fraser

  • To effect a change of ownership with the candid concomitance of a brass band.

  • Will you give us each a bracelet of brass as well as the rifles?

    The Monster Men

    Edgar Rice Burroughs

  • Kirkwood smiled grimly, with a face of brass, impenetrable, inflexible.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

British Dictionary definitions for brass



an alloy of copper and zinc containing more than 50 per cent of copper. Alpha brass (containing less than 35 per cent of zinc) is used for most engineering materials requiring forging, pressing, etc Alpha-beta brass (35–45 per cent zinc) is used for hot working and extrusion. Beta brass (45–50 per cent zinc) is used for castings. Small amounts of other metals, such as lead or tin, may be addedCompare bronze (def. 1)
an object, ornament, or utensil made of brass
  1. the large family of wind instruments including the trumpet, trombone, French horn, etc, each consisting of a brass tube blown directly by means of a cup- or funnel-shaped mouthpiece
  2. (sometimes functioning as plural)instruments of this family forming a section in an orchestra
  3. (as modifier)a brass ensemble
a renewable sleeve or bored semicylindrical shell made of brass or bronze, used as a liner for a bearing
(functioning as plural) informal important or high-ranking officials, esp military officersthe top brass See also brass hat
Northern English dialect moneywhere there's muck, there's brass!
British an engraved brass memorial tablet or plaque, set in the wall or floor of a church
informal bold self-confidence; cheek; nervehe had the brass to ask for more time
slang a prostitute
(modifier) of, consisting of, or relating to brass or brass instrumentsa brass ornament; a brass band
Related formsRelated adjective: brazen

Word Origin for brass

Old English bræs; related to Old Frisian bres copper, Middle Low German bras metal
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for brass

Old English 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 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.

As brass was unknown in antiquity, use of the word in Bible translations, etc., likely means "bronze." The Romans were the first to deliberately make it. Words for "brass" in other languages (e.g. German Messing, Old English mæsling, French laiton, Italian ottone) also tend to be difficult to explain.

The meaning "effrontery, impudence" is from 1620s. Slang sense of "high officials" is first recorded 1899. The brass tacks that you get down to (1897) probably are the ones used to measure cloth on the counter of a dry goods store, suggesting precision. Slang brass balls "toughness, courage" (emphatically combining two metaphors for the same thing) attested by 1960s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

brass in Science



A yellowish alloy of copper and zinc, usually 67 percent copper and 33 percent zinc. It sometimes includes small amounts of other metals. Brass is strong, ductile, and resistant to many forms of corrosion.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

brass in Culture


Musical instruments traditionally made of brass and played by blowing directly into a small, cup-shaped mouthpiece. They include the French horn, trumpet, trombone, and tuba.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with brass


In addition to the idioms beginning with brass

  • brass hat
  • brass ring

also see:

  • bold as brass
  • double in brass
  • get down to brass tacks
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.