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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English bras, bres, from Old English bræs (brass, bronze), origin uncertain. Perhaps representing a backformation from Proto-Germanic *brasnaz (brazen), from or related to *brasō (fire, pyre). Compare Old Norse and Icelandic bras (solder), Icelandic brasa (to harden in the fire), Swedish brasa (flame), Danish brase (to fry); French braser ("to solder"; > English braise) from the same Germanic root. Compare also Middle Dutch braspenninc ("a silver coin", literally, "silver-penny"; > Dutch braspenning), Old Frisian bress (copper), Middle Low German bras (metal, ore).


brass (usually uncountable, plural brasses)

  1. (uncountable) A metallic alloy of copper and zinc used in many industrial and plumbing applications.
  2. (countable, music) A class of wind instruments, usually made of metal (such as brass), that use vibrations of the player's lips to produce sound.
  3. Spent shell casings (usually made of brass); the part of the cartridge left over after bullets have been fired.
  4. (uncountable) The colour of brass.
    brass colour:  
  5. (uncountable, used as a singular or plural noun, military, metonymically) High-ranking officers.
    The brass are not going to like this.
    The brass is not going to like this.
  6. (uncountable, informal) A brave or foolhardy attitude.
    You've got a lot of brass telling me to do that!
  7. (slang, dated) Money.
  8. Inferior composition.
Derived terms[edit]


brass (comparative more brass, superlative most brass)

  1. Made of brass, of or pertaining to brass.
  2. Of the colour of brass.
  3. (informal) Impertinent, bold: brazen.
    • 1996 May 24, 2:00 am, Sherman Simpson, Want license key for AGENT FOR WINDOWS95, alt.usenet.offline-reader.forte-agent:
      Maybe (probably so), but it's rare someone is brass enough to post a msg for all to see asking for a software key, that the vast majority have paid for in support of the development effort.
    • 2000 Aug 18, 2:00 am, David Ryan, strangest bid retraction /illegal lottery NOT, rec.collecting.coins:
      After cornering the dutch auction, the seller was brass enough to send him the whole lot without one.
    • 2000 Aug 19, 3:00 am, n4mwd, for RMB,
      Try to keep in mind that not all of his converts are brass enough to challenge the benzo pushers in this group, [...]
  4. (slang) Bad, annoying; as wordplay applied especially to brass instruments.
    • 1888, Mr. & Mrs. Bancroft on and off the stage: written by themselves, volume 1, page 90:
      Grindoff, the miller, 'and the leader of a very brass band of most unpopular performers, with a thorough base accompaniment of at least fifty vices,' was played by Miss Saunders.
    • 1900, The Training of Seamen, published in The Saturday Review, 3 November 1900, volume 90, number 2349, page 556:
      I must confess that to me there is something almost pathetic in the sight of a body of bluejackets improving their muscles on the quarter deck by bar-bell exercise, accompanied by a brass — a very brass — band, [...]
    • 1908, The Smith Family, published in Punch, March 4 1908, bound in Punch vol. CXXXIV, page 168:
      Mr. REGINALD SMITH, KC, the publisher, followed, but he had hardly begun his very interesting remarks when a procession headed by a very brass band entered Smithfield from the west, and approached the platform.
    • 1937, Blair Niles, A journey in time: Peruvian pageant, page 166:
      There are soldiers, policemen, priests and friars, as well as a motley mass of women, children, babies and dogs, and upon special occasions a very brass band.
    • Philippine Magazine, volume 6, page 27: (Can we date this quote?)
      The padre in my neighborhood — Santa Ana — was having some kind of a fiesta, and had hired a very brass band. This band kept up its martial airs for hours and hours after I got home, with grand finales — or what each time I hoped would be the grand finale, every five minutes.
  5. Of inferior composition.
    • 1939, The New York times film reviews, volume 3:
      As Honest Plush Brannon then, Mr. Beery is one of San Francisco's fancier con men and hence more brass than plush
  • 1869, Calendar of State Papers, domestic series, of the reign of Charles I, 1637-1638, edited by John Bruce, page 147:
    At the Council board, I hope to charge him with that he cannot answer, and yet I know his face is brass enough.
  • 1872, Elsie Leigh Whittlesey, Helen Ethinger: or, Not Exactly Right, page 154:
    [...] he continued in the same insulting strain. "If you were not quite brass, you would know it is not proper to be making promises you dare not tell of."
  • 2011, Paul Christopher, The Templar Conspiracy:
    It was a show of very large and very brass cojones, [...]


brass (third-person singular simple present brasses, present participle brassing, simple past and past participle brassed)

  1. to coat with brass


Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

By ellipsis from "brass nail," in turn from "nail[ing]" (fig.) and "brass blonde" (see "brazen").


brass (uncountable)

  1. (uncountable, slang) Brass in pocket; money.
  2. (countable, slang) A brass nail; a prostitute.



  1. (slang) Brass monkey; cold.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Brass” in David Barthelmy, Webmineral Mineralogy Database[1], 1997–.
  • brass[2], Hudson Institute of Mineralogy, accessed 29 August 2016




brass n (genitive singular brass, no plural)

  1. (music, slang) brass