[ broun-nohz ]
See synonyms for: brown-nosebrown-nosing on

verb (used without object),brown-nosed, brown-nos·ing.
  1. to curry favor; behave obsequiously.

verb (used with object),brown-nosed, brown-nos·ing.
  1. to seek favors from (a person) in an obsequious manner; fawn over.

  1. Also brown-noser. a toady; sycophant.

Origin of brown-nose

First recorded in 1935–40; brown + nose Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use brown-nose in a sentence

  • Presently a brown nose appeared between the house and my hiding place.

    Watched by Wild Animals | Enos A. Mills
  • Each was coal black except for a V-shaped white mark on the breast and a brown nose.

    Camps and Trails in China | Roy Chapman Andrews and Yvette Borup Andrews
  • But the mother, who raised her brown nose suddenly from the cool mold out of which she had been digging lily-bulbs, had seen dogs.

    The Country Beyond | James Oliver Curwood
  • Miss Amber had managed to shove her brown nose in front, with Regulator at her saddle girth.

    Old Man Curry | Charles E. (Charles Emmett) Van Loan
  • Clay's dog put up his brown nose for a little attention, and got it.

    The Gilded Age, Complete | Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner

British Dictionary definitions for brown nose (1 of 2)

brown nose

  1. vet science a form of light sensitization in cattle

British Dictionary definitions for brown-nose (2 of 2)


/ slang /

  1. to be abjectly subservient (to); curry favour (with)

  1. an abjectly subservient person; sycophant

Origin of brown-nose

C20: from the notion that a subservient person kisses the backside of the person with whom he or she is currying favour

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with brown-nose


Solicit favor obsequiously, toady. For example, Harry was always brown nosing, but it didn't help his grades. This term originated in the military in the late 1930s, where it meant “to curry favor”; it alludes to ass-kissing when the backside being kissed is less than clean. Despite its scatological origin, today this slangy term is not considered particularly vulgar.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.