verb (used without object), brown-nosed, brown-nos·ing.

to curry favor; behave obsequiously.

verb (used with object), brown-nosed, brown-nos·ing.

to seek favors from (a person) in an obsequious manner; fawn over.


Also brown-nos·er. a toady; sycophant.

Compare ass-kissing.

Origin of brown-nose

First recorded in 1935–40; brown + nose Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for brownnosing

apple-polish, bootlick, flatter, toady

British Dictionary definitions for brownnosing



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


an abjectly subservient person; sycophant

Word Origin for 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

Word Origin and History for brownnosing



also brownnose, 1939, American English colloquial, said to be military slang originally, from brown (adj.) + nose (n.), "from the implication that servility is tantamount to having one's nose in the anus of the person from whom advancement is sought" [Webster, 1961]. Related: Brown-noser, brown-nosing (both 1950).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper