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

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. Compare bold as brass.

Alternative forms[edit]



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.

Derived terms[edit]

See also[edit]



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

  1. (intransitive) To turn a brass color.
    • 1986, Quarterly Journal of Ideology: QJI, volume 10, [Tahlequah, Okla.]: QJI Editorial Board, ISSN 0738-9752, page 93:
      [] the meadows roughen, grow gutteral / with goldenrod, milkweed's late-summer lilac, / cat-tails, the wild lily brazening, / dooryards overflowing in late, rough-headed bloom: []
  2. (transitive) Generally followed by out or through: to carry through in a brazen manner; to act boldly despite embarrassment, risk, etc. [from 1550s.]
    • 1656, John Trapp, “A Commentary or Exposition upon the Gospel According to St. Matthew”, in A Commentary or Exposition upon All the Books of the New Testament. Wherein the Text is Explained, Some Controversies Discussed, Divers Common Places are Handled, and Many Remarkable Matters Hinted, that Had by Former Interpreters been Pretermitted. Besides, Divers Other Texts of Scriptures, which Occasionally Occur, are Fully Opened, and the Whole so Intermixed with Pertinent Histories, as will Yield both Pleasure and Profit to the Judicious Reader. [...] The Second Edition very much Enlarged throughout, with an Alphabetical Table thereunto, 2nd enlarged edition, London: Printed by R. W. and are to be sold by Nath. Ekins, at the Gun in Pauls Church-yard, OCLC 606603002, page 274:
      And though the word doth eat up all they can ſay, as Moſes rod did: yet they harden their hearts with Pharaoh, they brazen their brows with him in the text, that ſaid I will not: Nay ſaid the Iſraelites, but we will have a King. [Commentary on Matthew 21:29.]
    • 1832 November, “Noctes Ambrosianæ. No. LXIV.”, in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, volume XXXII, number CCI, Edinburgh: William Blackwood, Edinburgh; and T[homas] Cadell, Strand, London, OCLC 1781863, page 870:
      His impudence is only less than his ignorance, in referring his questioner to [John] Milton, in proof of the scriptural angels being celestial women. That gentleman mildly remarks, "Milton's angels are not Ladies." Instead of blushing, he brazens it out, and replies, "No—but some scriptural angels are Ladies—I believe"—shewing that he is as ignorant of his Bible as of Milton.
    • 1887, William Black, Sabina Zembra: A Novel, London; New York, N.Y.: Macmillan and Co.; Edinburgh: Printed by R. & R. Clark, OCLC 18513677; new and rev. edition, London: Sampson Low, Marston, 1893, OCLC 3780442, page 118:
      Sabina brazened it out before Mrs. Wygram, but inwardly she was resolved to be a good deal more circumspect.
    • 1949, Robert Graves, “Modernist Poetry (with Laura Riding, 1926)”, in The Common Asphodel, Collected Essays on Poetry, 1922–1949, London: Hamish Hamilton, OCLC 459551315, page 151:
      [T]he historically minded modernist poet is uncertain whether there is any excuse at all for the existence of poets. He brazens out the dilemma by making cruel jokes at his own expense—jokes which he expects no one to see or to laugh at if seen.
    • 2007, Jennifer Brice, “Blue Storm”, in Unlearning to Fly, Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press, ISBN 978-0-8032-1094-3, page 169:
      [] I've come to rely on a mental technique that I call powering through. [] It's equivalent to brazening out an awkward social situation—accidentally squeezing the butt of a stranger wearing the same costume as your boyfriend at a Halloween party, say. Powering through or brazening out is almost always what I end up doing, but only after stifling my initial impulse to surrender or sink through the floor.
    • 2008, Charles W. Sasser, God in the Foxhole: Inspiring True Stories of Miracles on the Battlefield, New York, N.Y.: Threshold Editions, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-1-4165-4137-0:
      The drivers of the 507s Lost Convoy knew they were in a world of deep fecal matter. Could they brazen a path through the city once more and pick up Route Blue on the other side? Or would this morning's chain of unfortunate events finally catch up with them?

Derived terms[edit]


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