brass


brass
brass (n.) O.E. bræs "brass, bronze," originally in reference to an alloy of copper and tin (now bronze), later and in modern use an alloy of two parts copper, one part zinc. A mystery word, with no known cognates beyond English. Perhaps akin to Fr. brasser "to brew," since it is an alloy. It also has been compared to O.Swed. brasa "fire," but no sure connection can be made. Yet another theory connects it with L. ferrum "iron," itself of obscure origin.
As brass was unknown in antiquity, use of the word in Bible translations, etc., likely means "bronze." The Romans were the first to deliberately make it. Words for "brass" in other languages (e.g. Ger. Messing, O.E. mæsling, Fr. laiton, It. ottone) also tend to be difficult to explain.
The meaning "effrontery, impudence" is from 1620s. Slang sense of "high officials" is first recorded 1899. The brass tacks that you get down to (1897) are probably the ones used to measure cloth on the counter of a dry goods store, suggesting precision. Slang brass balls "toughness, courage" (emphatically combining two metaphors for the same thing) attested by 1960s.

Etymology dictionary. 2014.

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  • Brass — Brass, n.; pl. {Brasses}. [OE. bras, bres, AS. br[ae]s; akin to Icel. bras cement, solder, brasa to harden by fire, and to E. braze, brazen. Cf. 1st & 2d {Braze}.] 1. An alloy (usually yellow) of copper and zinc, in variable proportion, but often …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • brass — [bra:s US bræs] n ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ 1¦(metal)¦ 2¦(music)¦ 3¦(decorations)¦ 4 get down to brass tacks 5¦(people with top jobs)¦ 6 it s brass monkeys/brass monkey weather 7¦(money)¦ ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ [: Old English; Origin: brAs] 1.) ¦(METAL)¦ …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • brass — [ bræs ] noun ** 1. ) uncount a shiny yellow metal that is used for making musical instruments and objects such as door handles. It is a mixture of COPPER and ZINC: a faucet made of brass doors with brass hinges a ) count a flat piece of brass… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • brass — ► NOUN 1) a yellow alloy of copper and zinc. 2) (also horse brass) a flat brass ornament for the harness of a draught horse. 3) Brit. a memorial consisting of a flat piece of inscribed brass in the wall or floor of a church. 4) brass wind… …   English terms dictionary

  • Brass — ist: die englische Bezeichnung für Messing eine gängige Bezeichnung für Blasmusik mit Blechblasinstrumenten aus Messing eine Stadt in Nigeria, siehe Brass (Nigeria) Brass ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Arnold Braß (1854–1915), deutscher …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • brass — [bras, bräs] n. pl. brasses [ME bras < OE bræs, brass, bronze] 1. a yellowish metal that is essentially an alloy of copper and zinc 2. things made of brass, as fittings, ornaments, or implements 3. [often with pl. v.] the brass instruments of… …   English World dictionary

  • brass — brass; brass·bound·er; brass·ie; brass·i·ly; brass·i·ness; ze·brass; brass·ey; steen·brass; …   English syllables

  • brass´i|ly — brass|y «BRAS ee, BRAHS », adjective, brass|i|er, brass|i|est, noun, plural brass|ies. –adj. 1. of or covered with brass. 2. like brass: » …   Useful english dictionary

  • brass|y — «BRAS ee, BRAHS », adjective, brass|i|er, brass|i|est, noun, plural brass|ies. –adj. 1. of or covered with brass. 2. like brass: » …   Useful english dictionary

  • brass — [brɑːs ǁ bræs] noun [uncountable] informal the top managers in an organization; = TOP BRASS: • Mr Sprey and the Air Force brass clashed continually over major elements of the plane s design. * * * brass UK US /brɑːs/ noun [U] ► WORK …   Financial and business terms


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