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An Ashanti brass figurine of a leopard from Kroform, a small village in the Ashanti Region, Ashantiland, Ghana

Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English brasen, from Old English bræsen ‎(brazen, of brass), equivalent to brass +‎ -en (compare golden).[1]

The word originally meant “of brass”; the figurative verb sense (as in brazen it out ‎(face impudently)) dates from the 1550s (perhaps evoking the sense “face like brass, unmoving and not showing shame”), and the adjective sense “impudent” from the 1570s.



brazen ‎(comparative more brazen, superlative most brazen)

  1. (archaic) Pertaining to, made of, or resembling brass (in color or strength).
    • 1786, Francis Grose, Military Antiquities Respecting a History of the English Army, from the Conquest to the Present Time, London: Printed for S. Hooper No. 212 High Holborn, OCLC 745209064; republished as Military Antiquities Respecting a History of the English Army, from the Conquest to the Present Time, volume II, new [2nd] edition with material additions and improvements, London: Printed for T[homas] Egerton, Whitehall; & G. Kearsley, Fleet Street, 1801, OCLC 435979550, page 262:
      Brazen or rather copper ſwords ſeem to have been next introduced; theſe in proceſs of time, workmen learned to harden by the addition of ſome other metal or mineral, which rendered them almoſt equal in temper to iron.
    • 1836, [Harvey Newcomb], The Brazen Serpent: Being a Simple Illustration of Faith Drawn from Scripture History. Written for the American Sunday-School Union, and Revised by the Committee of Publication, Philadelphia, Pa.: American Sunday-School Union, No. 146 Chestnut Street, OCLC 135368271, pages 40–41:
      And Moses made a brass image of the fiery serpents, and put it up on a pole, where all the people could see it; and when any one was bitten, he could look upon the brazen serpent, and was cured.
    • 1859 May 2, X. X. X. [pseudonym], “Looking at Lodgings”, in The Ragged School Union Magazine, volume IX, London: Ragged School Union, 1, Exeter Hall; Partridge & Co., 34, Paternoster Row; and all booksellers, OCLC 614851442, page 91:
      The women, stout, strong, brazen-faced creatures, in most cases looked able to thrash any of the partners with whom they consorted.
    • 1913, Edgar Rice Burroughs, “The Plant Men”, in The Gods of Mars (Project Gutenberg; EBook #29405)[1], New York, N.Y.: Grosset & Dunlap, published September 1918, Project Gutenberg version dated 17 May 2012, OCLC 3364543, archived from the original on 5 March 2016:
      The vegetation was similar to that which covers the lawns of the red Martians of the great waterways, but the trees and birds were unlike anything that I had ever seen upon Mars, and then through the further trees I could see that most un-Martian of all sights—an open sea, its blue waters shimmering beneath the brazen sun.
  2. Sounding harsh and loud, like brass cymbals or brass instruments.
    • 1697, Virgil; John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. Translated into English Verse; by Mr. Dryden. Adorn'd with a Hundred Sculptures, London: Printed for Jacob Tonson, at the Judges-Head in Fleetstreet, near the Inner-Temple-Gate, OCLC 839376905; republished as The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. Translated into English Verse by Mr. Dryden. In Three Volumes, volume III, 5th edition, London: Printed by Jacob Tonson in the Strand, 1721, OCLC 181805247, book IX, page 822, lines 667–670:
      And now the Trumpets terribly from far, / With rattling Clangor, rouze the ſleepy War. / The Souldiers Shouts ſucceed the Brazen Sounds, / And Heav'n, from Pole to Pole, the Noiſe rebounds.
    • 2001, R[alph] N[ixon] Currey, “The Horn”, in Collected Poems, Oxford: James Currey; Cape Town: David Philip Publishers, ISBN 978-0-85255-573-6, page 246:
      Often a traveller, when the air is quiet, / Will make the night reverberate with this riot / Of brazen sounds, whose singing cadence swells / The harmony of bleating and lambs' bells.
  3. (archaic) Extremely strong; impenetrable.
    • 1870, The Sunday at Home: A Family Magazine for Sabbath Reading, volume XVII, London: Religious Tract Society, OCLC 1587811, page 587:
      The giant [Goliath] was thus conquered by the youth [David]; the man-at-arms by the unarmed; the stone of the shepherd pierced the brazen defences of the warrior.
    • 2015, Bertolt Brecht, “Frank Wedekind”, in Marc Silberman, Steve Giles, and Tom Kuhn, editors, Brecht on Theatre, 3rd rev. and updated edition, London; New York, N.Y.: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN 978-1-4725-5861-9, page 19:
      In the autumn, when a small group of us heard him [Frank Wedekind] read from Heracles, his last work, I was amazed at his brazen energy. For two and a half hours without stopping, without once lowering his voice (and what a strong, brazen voice it was), barely pausing for breath for even a moment between acts, bent motionless over the table, he read – half from memory – those verses wrought in brass, looking deep into the eyes of each of his listeners in turn.
  4. Shamelessly shocking and offensive; impudent; barefaced; immodest, unblushing. [from 1570s.]
    She was brazen enough to deny stealing the handbag even though she was caught on closed-circuit television doing so.
    • 1993, Karla Hocker, A Deceitful Heart (Zebra Regency Romance), New York, N.Y.: Zebra Books, Kensington Books, ISBN 978-0-8217-4073-6:
      He looked at her for a long moment. Slowly, a smile lit in his eyes. "Never a shrew. A fighter and a brazen hussy." / Placing a finger beneath her chin, he tilted her face up. "And, I'd say, you're the only brazen hussy who blushes." / A brazen hussy. She should be offended. But the smile in his eyes, the touch of his finger moving slowly and feather-light from chin to throat and along the sensitive skin of her neck made it impossible to concentrate on rebuke.
    • 2012, Michelle West, Skirmish: A House War Novel (DAW Books Collectors; no. 1571), New York, N.Y.: DAW Books, ISBN 978-0-7564-0701-8:
      If one had to lie at all, the brazen lie was better because brazen lies were so outrageous many people failed to question them.

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brazen ‎(third-person singular simple present brazens, present participle brazening, simple past and past participle brazened)

  1. (transitive) Generally followed by out or through: to carry through in a brazen manner. [from 1550s.]
    • W. Black.
      Sabina brazened it out before Mrs. Wygram, but inwardly she was resolved to be a good deal more circumspect.

Derived terms[edit]


  1. ^ brazen” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary (2001).