• synonyms


or bri·ar

See more synonyms for brier on Thesaurus.com
  1. a prickly plant or shrub, especially the sweetbrier or a greenbrier.
  2. a tangled mass of prickly plants.
  3. a thorny stem or twig.
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Origin of brier1

before 1000; Middle English brer, Old English brǣr, brēr; akin to bramble
Related formsbri·er·y, adjective


or bri·ar

  1. the white heath, Erica arborea, of France and Corsica, the woody root of which is used for making tobacco pipes.
  2. a pipe made of brierroot.
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Origin of brier2

1865–70; earlier bruyer < French bruyère, Old French < Gallo-Latin *brūcāria field of heather, equivalent to *brūc- heather (< Gaulish, perhaps *broiko- (with early L change of oi > ū) < Celtic *wroiko- > Old Irish froech, Welsh grug) + Latin -āria -ary; compare early Medieval Latin brucus, brugaria; see -er2, -ar2


or bri·ar

noun Usually Disparaging.
  1. (chiefly in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee) a term used to refer to a rustic or hillbilly, especially one from Appalachia.
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Origin of brier3

shortening of brier hopper

Usage note

This term is usually used with disparaging intent to refer to those white people who migrated north and west from Southern Appalachia throughout the first half of the 20th century. These migrants, mostly from eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, were looking for jobs in southeastern Ohio and other places. Brier has negative connotations similar to words such as hillbilly and redneck . But brier has also been used as a term of self-reference by the migrants themselves and their descendants. It is a shortened form of brier hopper/brierhopper (also spelled briar hopper/briarhopper ), probably a reference to the brier bushes found in Southern Appalachia.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for brier

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • As soon as they had gone out of my hearing I emerged from the brier thicket.

    Biography of a Slave

    Charles Thompson

  • Trudy was keen as a brier whenever her own realm was threatened.

    The Gorgeous Girl

    Nalbro Bartley

  • It is your right,” said his daughter, quietly; “the Brier Brook swales were yours.

    A Young Man in a Hurry

    Robert W. Chambers

  • It must be lovely there, and the change will make you as keen as a brier for business.

    The Golden House

    Charles Dudley Warner

  • Hidden by brier and eglantine, they are fast losing all traces of cultivation.

British Dictionary definitions for brier



  1. any of various thorny shrubs or other plants, such as the sweetbrier and greenbrier
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Derived Formsbriery or briary, adjective

Word Origin

Old English brēr, brǣr, of obscure origin


  1. a variant spelling of briar 1
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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 brier


"thorny shrub, heath," 1540s, variant of Middle English brere, from Old English brer (Anglian), brær (West Saxon) "brier, bramble, prickly bush," of unknown origin. Briar is the most recent variant (c.1600). Originally used of prickly, thorny bushes in general, now mostly restricted to wild rose bushes. Used figuratively (in plural) for "troubles" from c.1500.

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type of tobacco pipe introduced to England c.1859 and made from the root of a certain shrub, 1868, from French bruyère "heath plant," from Old French bruiere "heather, briar, heathland, moor" (12c.), from Gallo-Romance *brucaria, from *brucus "heather," from Gaulish (cf. Breton brug "heath," Old Irish froech). Form altered in English by influence of brier (n.1).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper