- (Received Pronunciation, General American) enPR: breɪ, IPA(key): /bɹeɪ/
Audio (GA) (file)
- Rhymes: -eɪ
- Homophone: brae
The verb is derived from Middle English braien, brai, braie, bray, braye (“of a person or animal: to vocalize loudly; of the weather: to make a loud sound, howl, roar”), from Old French brai, braire (“of an animal: to bray; of a person: to cry or shout out”) (modern French braire (“of an animal: to bray; of a person: to shout; to cry, weep”)), possibly from Vulgar Latin *bragiō, from Gaulish *bragu (compare Breton breugiñ (“to bray”), brammañ (“to flatulate”), Cornish bramma, brabma (“to flatulate”), Old Irish braigid (“to flatulate”)), from Proto-Celtic *brageti, *bragyeti (“to flatulate”), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰreHg- (“to flatulate; to stink”); cognate with Latin fragrō (“to smell”), Proto-Germanic *brakkô (“hound”). Alternatively, the word could be from a Germanic source, ultimately from Proto-Germanic *brekaną (“to break”), and cognate with frangere (“to break, shatter”).
The noun is derived from the verb, or from Middle English brai, brait (“shriek; outcry”), from Old French brai, brait (“a cry”), from braire (“of an animal: to bray; of a person: to shout; to cry, weep”); see above.
- (intransitive) Of an animal (now chiefly of animals related to the ass or donkey, and the camel): to make its cry.
- Synonyms: blore (archaic, dialectal), hee-haw (ass or donkey)
- Whenever I walked by, that donkey brayed at me.
- 1712 April 27, Joseph Addison; Richard Steele, “WEDNESDAY, April 16, 1712 [Julian calendar]”, in The Spectator, number 354, London: J[acob] and R[ichard] Tonson, OCLC 1026609121; republished in Alexander Chalmers, editor, The Spectator; a New Edition, Carefully Revised, in Six Volumes: With Prefaces Historical and Biographical, volume IV, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, 1853, OCLC 191120697, page 293:
- When she went to the famous ass-race [...], it was not, like other ladies, to hear those poor animals bray, nor see fellows run naked, or to hear country squires in bob wigs and white girdles make love at the side of a coach and cry, "Madam, this is dainty weather."
- 1792 July, “Art. II. Interesting Anecdotes of Henry IV. of France. Containing Sublime Traits and Lively Sallies of Wit of that Monarch; […]. Translated from the French. Crown 8vo. 2 Vols. 6s. Boards. Debrett. 1792. [book review]”, in The Monthly Review; or, Literary Journal, Enlarged, volume VIII, London: Printed for R[alph] Griffiths; and sold by T[homas] Becket, […], published 1794, OCLC 901376714, page 249:
- Henry [IV of France], paſſing through a little town, ſaw ſeveral deputies coming up to harangue him. One of them having commenced his diſcourſe, was interrupted by an aſs, who began to bray. "Gentlemen," cried the King, "one at a time, if you pleaſe."—
- 1812, Count de Buffon [i.e., Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon], “The Ass”, in William Smellie, transl., Natural History, General and Particular, […]. The History of Man and Quadrupeds: Translated, with Notes and Observations, […] In Twenty Volumes, volume IV, London: Printed for T[homas] Cadell and W[illiam] Davies, […], OCLC 841641381, page 174:
- The horse neighs, but the ass brays: the last is performed by a very loud, long, disagreeable, discordant cry, consisting of discords alternately sharp and flat. He seldom brays but when pressed with hunger or love. [...] When gelded, the ass brays with a low voice; and, though he makes the same efforts and the same motions of the throat, yet the sound reaches to no great distance.
- (intransitive, by extension) To make a harsh, discordant sound like a donkey's bray.
- He threw back his head and brayed with laughter.
- 1757 August 8, [Thomas] Gray, “The Bard. A Pindaric Ode.”, in Poems by Mr. Gray, London: Printed for J[ames] Dodsley, […], published 1768, OCLC 1102978403, stanza II.3, page 64:
- Heard ye the din of battle bray, / Lance to lance, and horſe to horſe? / Long Years of havock urge their deſtined courſe, / And thro' the kindred ſquadrons mow their way.
- 1986, John le Carré [pseudonym; David John Moore Cornwell], A Perfect Spy, London: Hodder & Stoughton, →ISBN; 1st Pocket Books trade paperback edition, New York, N.Y.: Pocket Books, January 2003, →ISBN, page 400:
- "But, Jack, it's all so circumstantial—you said so yourself," Brammel brayed, never stronger than when demonstrating that two positives made a negative.
- (transitive) To make or utter (a shout, sound, etc.) discordantly, loudly, or in a harsh and grating manner.
- 1667, John Milton, “Book VI”, in Paradise Lost. A Poem Written in Ten Books, London: Printed [by Samuel Simmons], and are to be sold by Peter Parker […] [a]nd by Robert Boulter […] [a]nd Matthias Walker, […], OCLC 228722708; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: The Text Exactly Reproduced from the First Edition of 1667: […], London: Basil Montagu Pickering […], 1873, OCLC 230729554, lines 207–211:
- [N]ow ſtorming furie roſe, / And clamour ſuch as heard in Heav'n till now / Was never, Arms on Armour claſhing bray'd / Horrible discord, and the madding Wheeles / Of brazen Chariots rag'd; [...]
- 1808 February 22, Walter Scott, “Canto Fifth. The Court.”, in Marmion; a Tale of Flodden Field, Edinburgh: Printed by J[ames] Ballantyne and Co. for Archibald Constable and Company, […]; London: William Miller, and John Murray, OCLC 270129616, stanza V, page 247:
- Just then the chiefs their tribes arrayed, / And wild and garish semblance made, / The chequered trews, and belted plaid, / And varying notes the war-pipes brayed, / To every varying clan; [...]
bray (plural brays)
- The cry of an animal, now chiefly that of animals related to the ass or donkey, or the camel.
- Synonym: hee-haw (ass or donkey)
- (by extension) Any discordant, grating, or harsh sound.
- 1843, [Douglas William Jerrold], “A Gossip at the Reculvers [from The Chronicles of Clovernook]”, in Douglas [William] Jerrold, editor, The Illuminated Magazine, volume I, London: Published for the proprietors, […], OCLC 503990274, page 143, column 2:
- It seems a very nest—warm and snug, and green—for human life; with the twilight haze of time about it, almost consecrating it from the aching hopes and feverish expectations of the present. Who would think that the bray and roar of multitudinous London sounded but some sixty miles away?
- 1876 April, “Gosse’s King Erik: King Erik. By Edmund W. Gosse. London: Chatto and Windus. 1876. [book review]”, in The London Quarterly Review, volume XLVI, number XCI, London: Published for the proprietors, at the Wesleyan Conference Office, […], OCLC 1044051325, page 257:
- [...] Mr. [Edmund] Gosse's blank verse is sweet and varied, and full mostly of a graceful melody. If it has not the trumpet's power, neither has it the trumpet's bray, but rather a flute-like tone of its own.
From Middle English braie, braien, braye, brayen, breien (“to break (something) into small pieces, to chop, crush, grind; to use a mortar”), from Anglo-Norman breier, Old French breie, breier, broiier (modern French broyer (“to crush, grind”)), possibly from Frankish *brekan (“to break”), from Proto-Germanic *brekaną (“to break”), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰreg- (“to break”); thus making the English word a doublet of break.
- (transitive, archaic) To crush or pound, especially using a pestle and mortar.
- 1624, “The Commodities in Virginia, or that May Be Had by Industrie”, in John Smith, The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles: […], London: Printed by I[ohn] D[awson] and I[ohn] H[aviland] for Michael Sparkes, OCLC 1049014009, book 2; reprinted in The Generall Historie of Virginia, [...] (Bibliotheca Americana), Cleveland, Oh.: The World Publishing Company, 1966, OCLC 633956660, page 30:
- Their heads and ſhoulders are painted red with the roote Pocone brayed to powder, mixed with oyle, this they hold in ſommer to preſerue them from the heate, and in winter from the cold.
- 1625, Samuel Purchas, “Their Cocos and other fruits and food, their Trades and trading, Creatures profitable and hurtfull. Of Male their principall Iland. Their Houſes, Candou, Languages, Apparell.”, in Pvrchas his Pilgrimes. In Five Bookes. [...] The Second Part., volume II, London: Printed by William Stansby for Henrie Fetherstone, […], OCLC 63012317, page 1643 [sic: 1653]:
- (transitive, Britain, chiefly Yorkshire, by extension) To hit (someone or something).
- ^ “braien, v.(1)” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 8 June 2019.
- ^ “bray, v.1”, in OED Online , Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1888; “bray” in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press.
- ^ “brai, n.(1)” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 8 June 2019.
- ^ “bray, n.1”, in OED Online , Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1888.
- ^ “braien, v.(2)” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 8 June 2019.
- ^ Compare “bray, v.2”, in OED Online , Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1888.