• synonyms


See more synonyms for brush on Thesaurus.com
  1. an implement consisting of bristles, hair, or the like, set in or attached to a handle, used for painting, cleaning, polishing, grooming, etc.
  2. one of a pair of devices consisting of long, thin handles with wire bristles attached, used in jazz or dance bands for keeping a soft, rhythmic beat on the trap drums or the cymbals.
  3. the bushy tail of an animal, especially of a fox.
  4. Electricity.
    1. a conductor, often made of carbon or copper or a combination of the two, serving to maintain electric contact between stationary and moving parts of a machine, generator, or other apparatus.
    2. brush discharge.
  5. a feathery or hairy tuft or tassel, as on the tip of a kernel of grain or on a man's hat.
  6. an act or instance of brushing; application of a brush.
  7. a light, stroking touch.
  8. a brief encounter: He has already had one brush with the law.
  9. a close approach, especially to something undesirable or harmful: a brush with disaster.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to sweep, paint, clean, polish, etc., with a brush.
  2. to touch lightly in passing; pass lightly over: His lips brushed her ear.
  3. to remove by brushing or by lightly passing over: His hand brushed a speck of lint from his coat.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to move or skim with a slight contact.
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Verb Phrases
  1. brush aside, to disregard; ignore: Our complaints were simply brushed aside.
  2. brush off, to rebuff; send away: She had never been brushed off so rudely before.
  3. brush up on, to revive, review, or resume (studies, a skill, etc.): She's thinking of brushing up on her tennis.Also brush up.
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  1. get the brush, to be rejected or rebuffed: She greeted Jim effusively, but I got the brush.
  2. give the brush, to ignore, rebuff, etc.: If you're still angry with him, give him the brush.
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Origin of brush1

1350–1400; (noun) Middle English brusshe, probably to be identified with brush2, if orig. sense was implement made from twigs, etc., culled from brushwood; (v.) Middle English brushen to hasten, rush, probably < Old French brosser to travel (through brush), verbal derivative of broce (see brush2)
Related formsbrush·a·ble, adjectivebrush·er, nounbrush·like, adjectiveun·brush·a·ble, adjective


See more synonyms for brush on Thesaurus.com
8. engagement, action, skirmish. See struggle.


  1. a dense growth of bushes, shrubs, etc.; scrub; thicket.
  2. a pile or covering of lopped or broken branches; brushwood.
  3. bushes and low trees growing in thick profusion, especially close to the ground.
  4. Also called brushland. land or an area covered with thickly growing bushes and low trees.
  5. backwoods; a sparsely settled wooded region.
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Origin of brush2

1350–1400; Middle English brusshe < Middle French broisse, Old French broce underbrush (compare Anglo-French brousson wood, brusseie heath), perhaps < Vulgar Latin *bruscia excrescences, derivative of Latin bruscum knot or excrescence on a maple tree
Related formsbrush·i·ness, noun


  1. Katharine,1902–52, U.S. novelist and short-story writer.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for brush

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Brush with milk, dredge with sugar, and bake for about 1/2 hour.

    Woman's Institute Library of Cookery, Vol. 4

    Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences

  • "There are pigments, brush, and paper," said the old artist.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Yet I hold that the true art of my craft lies as much in the furnace as in the brush.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • They saw that the brush had been cut from the ground outside the stockade, as if for battle.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • I had eaten all the brush in the ravine and was beginning to be lonely.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

British Dictionary definitions for brush


  1. a device made of bristles, hairs, wires, etc, set into a firm back or handle: used to apply paint, clean or polish surfaces, groom the hair, etc
  2. the act or an instance of brushing
  3. a light stroke made in passing; graze
  4. a brief encounter or contact, esp an unfriendly one; skirmish
  5. the bushy tail of a fox, often kept as a trophy after a hunt, or of certain breeds of dog
  6. an electric conductor, esp one made of carbon, that conveys current between stationary and rotating parts of a generator, motor, etc
  7. a dark brush-shaped region observed when a biaxial crystal is viewed through a microscope, caused by interference between beams of polarized light
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  1. (tr) to clean, polish, scrub, paint, etc, with a brush
  2. (tr) to apply or remove with a brush or brushing movementbrush the crumbs off the table
  3. (tr) to touch lightly and briefly
  4. (intr) to move so as to graze or touch something lightly
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Derived Formsbrusher, nounbrushlike, adjective

Word Origin

C14: from Old French broisse, perhaps from broce brush ²


  1. a thick growth of shrubs and small trees; scrub
  2. land covered with scrub
  3. broken or cut branches or twigs; brushwood
  4. wooded sparsely populated country; backwoods
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Word Origin

C16 (dense undergrowth), C14 (cuttings of trees): from Old French broce, from Vulgar Latin bruscia (unattested) brushwood
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 brush


"dust-sweeper, a brush for sweeping," late 14c., also, c.1400, "brushwood, brushes;" from Old French broisse (Modern French brosse) "a brush" (13c.), perhaps from Vulgar Latin *bruscia "a bunch of new shoots" (used to sweep away dust), perhaps from Proto-Germanic *bruskaz "underbrush."

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"shrubbery," early 14c., from Anglo-French bruce "brushwood," Old North French broche, Old French broce "bush, thicket, undergrowth" (12c., Modern French brosse), from Gallo-Romance *brocia, perhaps from *brucus "heather," or possibly from the same source as brush (n.1).

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late 15c., "to clean or rub (clothing) with a brush," also (mid-15c.) "to beat with a brush," from brush (n.1). Related: Brushed; brushing. To brush off someone or something, "rebuff, dismiss," is from 1941.

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"move briskly" especially past or against something or someone, 1670s, from earlier sense (c.1400) "to hasten, rush," probably from brush (n.2), on the notion of a horse, etc., passing through dense undergrowth (cf. Old French brosser "travel (through woods)," and Middle English noun brush "charge, onslaught, encounter," mid-14c.), but brush (n.1) probably has contributed something to it as well. Related: Brushed; brushing.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with brush


In addition to the idioms beginning with brush

  • brush aside
  • brush off
  • brush up

also see:

  • give someone the air (brush off)
  • have a brush with
  • tarred with the same brush
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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.