[ broun ]
See synonyms for brown on
  1. a dark tertiary color with a yellowish or reddish hue.

  2. Offensive. a person whose skin has a light- or dark-brown pigmentation.

adjective,brown·er, brown·est.
  1. of the color brown.

  2. (of animals) having skin, fur, hair, or feathers of that color.

  1. sunburned or tanned.

  2. Often Offensive. (of human beings) having the skin naturally pigmented a brown color.

verb (used with or without object)
  1. to make or become brown.

  2. to fry, sauté, or scorch slightly in cooking: to brown onions before adding them to the stew. The potatoes browned in the pan.

Verb Phrases
  1. brown out, to subject to a brownout: The power failure browned out the southern half of the state.

Idioms about brown

  1. browned off, Slang. angry; fed up.

  2. do it up brown, Informal. to do thoroughly: When they entertain, they really do it up brown.

Origin of brown

First recorded before 1000; Middle English; Old English brūn; cognate with Dutch bruin, German braun, Old Norse brūnn; akin to Lithuanian brúnas; cf. bear2, bruin

usage note For brown

Brown as a noun and adjective to describe people with a brownish skin color is often perceived as insulting. Historically it has been used by anthropologists and scientists as a racial and ethnic classification to describe various dark-skinned populations, as in North Africa, the Middle East, Malaysia, and South Asia. It is also a term associated with colonialism. In recent times, brown has been used of Hispanics and South Asians in North America, many of whom self-identify as brown.

Other words from brown

  • brownish, browny, adjective
  • brownness, noun
  • o·ver·brown, verb
  • un·browned, adjective
  • well-browned, adjective

Other definitions for Brown (2 of 2)

[ broun ]

  1. Charles Brock·den [chahrlz-brok-duhn], /ˈtʃɑrlz ˈbrɒk dən/, 1771–1810, U.S. writer and intellectual, known as “the Father of the American novel.”

  2. Clifford "Brownie", 1930–56, U.S. jazz trumpeter and composer.

  1. Herbert Charles, 1912–2004, U.S. chemist, born in England: Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1979.

  2. Jerry Edmund Gerald Brown, Jr., born 1938, U.S. politician: governor of California 1975–83 and 2011–19.

  3. Jim James Nathaniel Brown, 1936–2023, U.S. football player and actor: Pro Football Hall of Fame 1971.

  4. John "Osawatomie Brown", 1800–59, U.S. abolitionist: leader of the attack at Harpers Ferry, where he was captured, tried for treason, and hanged.

  5. Margaret Wise, 1910–52, U.S. author noted for early-childhood books, including Goodnight Moon.

  6. Olympia, 1835–1926, U.S. women's-rights activist and Universalist minister: first American woman ordained by a major church.

  7. Robert, 1773–1858, Scottish botanist noted for his pioneering work in paleobotany and palynology. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use brown in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for brown (1 of 2)


/ (braʊn) /

  1. any of various colours, such as those of wood or earth, produced by low intensity light in the wavelength range 620–585 nanometres

  2. a dye or pigment producing these colours

  1. brown cloth or clothing: dressed in brown

  2. any of numerous mostly reddish-brown butterflies of the genera Maniola, Lasiommata, etc, such as M. jurtina (meadow brown): family Satyridae

  1. of the colour brown

  2. (of bread) made from a flour that has not been bleached or bolted, such as wheatmeal or wholemeal flour

  1. deeply tanned or sunburnt

  1. to make (esp food as a result of cooking) brown or (esp of food) to become brown

Origin of brown

Old English brūn; related to Old Norse brūnn, Old High German brūn, Greek phrunos toad, Sanskrit babhru reddish-brown

Derived forms of brown

  • brownish or browny, adjective
  • brownness, noun

British Dictionary definitions for Brown (2 of 2)


/ (braʊn) /

  1. Sir Arthur Whitten (ˈwɪt ə n). 1886–1948, British aviator who with J.W. Alcock made the first flight across the Atlantic (1919)

  2. Ford Madox . 1821–93, British painter, associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. His paintings include The Last of England (1865) and Work (1865)

  1. George (Alfred), Lord George-Brown. 1914–85, British Labour politician; vice-chairman and deputy leader of the Labour party (1960–70); foreign secretary 1966–68

  2. George Mackay . 1921–96, Scottish poet, novelist, and short-story writer. His works, which include the novels Greenvoe (1972) and Magnus (1973), reflect the history and culture of Orkney

  3. (James) Gordon . born 1951, British Labour politician; Chancellor of the Exchequer (1997–2007); prime minister (2007–10)

  4. Herbert Charles . 1912–2004, US chemist, who worked on the compounds of boron. Nobel prize for chemistry 1979

  5. James . 1933–2006, US soul singer and songwriter, noted for his dynamic stage performances and for his commitment to Black rights

  6. John . 1800–59, US abolitionist leader, hanged after leading an unsuccessful rebellion of slaves at Harper's Ferry, Virginia

  7. Lancelot, called Capability Brown . 1716–83, British landscape gardener

  8. Michael (Stuart). born 1941, US physician: shared the Nobel prize for physiology or medicine (1985) for work on cholesterol

  9. Robert . 1773–1858, Scottish botanist who was the first to observe the Brownian movement in fluids

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


In addition to the idioms beginning with brown

  • brown bagger
  • browned off
  • brownie points
  • brown nose
  • brown study, in a

also see:

  • do up (brown)

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