See also: bräss


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Etymology 1Edit

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 (a small made fire), 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).

In the military sense an ellipsis of the brass hats.


brass (usually uncountable, plural brasses)

  1. (uncountable) A metallic alloy of copper and zinc used in many industrial and plumbing applications.
    1. A memorial or sepulchral tablet usually made of brass or latten
    2. Fittings, utensils, or other items made of brass
  2. (music) A class of wind instruments, usually made of metal (such as brass), that use vibrations of the player's lips to produce sound; the section of an orchestra that features such instruments
  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.
  5. (military, uncountable, used as a singular or plural noun, 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; impudence.
    You've got a lot of brass telling me to do that!
  7. (slang, dated) Money.
  8. Inferior composition.
Derived termsEdit


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.
    • 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, [...]
    • 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.
    • 1929, Philippine Magazine, volume 6, page 27
      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


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

  1. (transitive) To coat with brass.
Derived termsEdit


Related termsEdit

Etymology 2Edit

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


brass (usually uncountable, plural brasses)

  1. (countable, slang) A brass nail; a prostitute.
    • 1996, Will Self, The Sweet Smell of Psychosis, Bloomsbury 2011, p. 2:
      Richard didn't want the man on the corner to go up and fuck one of the brasses.



  1. (slang) Brass monkey; cold.

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Brass” in David Barthelmy, Webmineral Mineralogy Database[1], 1997–.
  • brass”, in[2], Hudson Institute of Mineralogy, 2000–2021.




brass n (genitive singular brass, no plural)

  1. (music, slang) brass