brow

brow (n.) words for "eyelid," "eyelash," and "eyebrow" changed about maddeningly in Old and Middle English (and in all the West Germanic languages). Linguists have untangled the knot into two strands: 1. O.E. bræw (Anglian *brew) "eyelid," from P.Gmc. *bræwi- "blinker, twinkler" (related to Goth. brahw "twinkle, blink," in phrase in brahwa augins "in the twinkling of an eye"); the sense must have shifted before the earliest recorded O.E. usage from "eyelash" to "eyelid." 2. O.E. bru "eyelash," from P.Gmc. *brus "eyebrow," from PIE root *bhrus (Cf. Skt. bhrus "eyebrow," Gk. ophrys, O.C.S. bruvi, Lith. bruvis "brow," O.Ir. bru "edge"). The sense of this must have been transferred in Old English at an early date from "eyebrow" to "eyelash."
Lacking a distinctive word for it, the Anglo-Saxons called an eyebrow ofer-bru, and in early Middle English they were known as uvere breyhes or briges aboue þe eiges. By c.1200, everything had moved "up." Bru/brouw (from bræw) became "eyelid;" and brew/breow (from O.E. bru) became "eyebrow." It remained the word for "eyebrow" in Scottish and northern English, where it naturally evolved into colloquial bree.
In southern English, however, M.E. bru/brouw took over the sense of "eyebrows," in the form brues, and yielded the usual modern form of the word. To make matters worse, if possible, some southern writers 15c.-17c. used bree for "eyelashes," in what OED calls "a curious reversion to what had been the original OE. sense of bru." By 1530s, brow had been given an extended sense of "forehead," especially with reference to movements and expressions that showed emotion or attitude. The -n- in the Old Norse (brun) and German (braune) forms of the word are from a genitive plural inflection.

Etymology dictionary. 2014.

Synonyms:
/ / (as of a precipice), ,


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Brow — (brou), n. [OE. browe, bruwe, AS. br[=u]; akin to AS. br[=ae]w, bre[ a]w, eyelid, OFries. br[=e], D. braauw, Icel. br[=a], br[=u]n, OHG. pr[=a]wa, G. braue, OSlav. br[u^]v[i^], Russ. brove, Ir. brai, Ir. & Gael. abhra, Armor. abrant, Gr. ofry s,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • brow — brow; brow·beat·er; brow·den; brow·less; brow·man; brow·ster; high·brow·ism; low·brow·ism; mid·dle·brow·ism; zu·brow·ka; …   English syllables

  • brow — [brau] n [: Old English; Origin: bru] 1.) literary the part of your face above your eyes and below your hair = ↑forehead mop/wipe your brow (=dry your brow with your hand or a cloth because you are hot or nervous) your brow… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • brow — [ brau ] noun count * 1. ) LITERARY the part of your face above your eyes: FOREHEAD: mop your brow (=wipe the sweat from your forehead): He mopped his brow with his handkerchief. furrow/wrinkle/crease your brow (=look worried or as if you are… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Brow — Brow, v. t. To bound to limit; to be at, or form, the edge of. [R.] [1913 Webster] Tending my flocks hard by i the hilly crofts That brow this bottom glade. Milton. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • brow — /brow/, n. 1. Anat. the ridge over the eye. 2. the hair growing on that ridge; eyebrow. 3. the forehead: He wore his hat low over his brow. 4. a person s countenance or mien. 5. the edge of a steep place: She looked down over the brow of the hill …   Universalium

  • brow — [brou] n. [ME broue < OE bru < IE base * bhru , eyebrow > Sans bhrū h, ON brūn] 1. the eyebrow 2. the forehead 3. the facial expression [an angry brow] 4. the projecting top edge of a steep hill or cliff …   English World dictionary

  • brow — [n] forehead countenance, eyebrow, face, frons, front, mien, temple, top; concept 418 …   New thesaurus

  • brow — ► NOUN 1) a person s forehead. 2) an eyebrow. 3) the summit of a hill or pass. DERIVATIVES browed adjective. ORIGIN Old English …   English terms dictionary

  • brow — noun 1 line of hair above the eye ⇨ See also ↑eyebrow ADJECTIVE ▪ dark, heavy ▪ bushy ▪ delicate VERB + BROW ▪ …   Collocations dictionary

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