brass (v.)
"to coat or cover with brass," 1865, from brass (n.). Compare braze (v.2). Related: Brassed; brassing.
brass (n.)
"yellow malleable alloy metal, harder than copper," Old English bræs "brass, bronze," originally any alloy of copper, in England usually with tin (this is now called bronze), later and in modern use an alloy of roughly two parts copper to one part zinc. A mystery word, with no known cognates beyond English. Perhaps akin to French brasser "to brew," because it is an alloy. It also has been compared to Old Swedish brasa "fire," but no sure connection can be made. Yet another theory connects it with Latin ferrum "iron," itself of obscure origin.

Words for "brass" in other languages (such as German Messing, Old English mæsling, French laiton, Italian ottone) also tend to be difficult to explain. As brass was unknown in early antiquity (it was well-known to Strabo, 1c., but not mentioned by Homer), the use of the English word in Bible translations, etc., likely means "bronze." The Romans were the first to deliberately make it.
When works of Greek and Roman antiquity in 'brass' began to be critically examined, and their material discriminated, the Italian word for 'brass' (bronzo, bronze) came into use to distinguish this 'ancient brass' from the current allot. [OED]
Rhetorically or figuratively it was the common type of hardness, durability, or obduracy since late 14c. The meaning "effrontery, impudence, excessive assurance" is from 1620s. Slang sense of "high officials" is first recorded 1899, from their insignia. Meaning "brass musical instruments of a band" is from 1832.
brass (adj.)
"made of brass," c. 1400, from brass (n.). Compare brazen (adj.). Slang brass balls "toughness, courage" (emphatically combining two words that serve as metaphors for the same thing) is attested by 1960s. Brass-band is from 1827.

The figurative brass tacks "essentials of a matter" that you get down to (1897, popular from c. 1910) perhaps are the ones said to have been nailed to the counters of a dry goods stores and used to measure cloth, suggesting precision, but the metaphor was unclear from the start, and brass tacks or nails in late 19c. were commonly noted as being used in upholstering. A 1911 advertisement begins " 'Getting down to brass tacks' is a characteristic American slang phrase, full of suggestion but of obscure origin."
brasserie (n.)
"beer saloon in which food is served," 1864, from French brasserie "beer-garden attached to a brewery," from Middle French brasser "to brew," from Latin brace "grain used to prepare malt," said by Pliny to be a Celtic word (compare Welsh brag "malt").
brassiere (n.)
"form-fitting undergarment to support a woman's breasts," by 1902, a euphemistic borrowing in the garment trade, from French brassière "child's chemise; shoulder strap" (17c.), from Old French braciere "arm guard" (14c.), from bras "an arm," from Latin bracchium "an arm," from Greek brakhion "an arm" (see brachio-). The French word was used 18c. in the sense "woman's underbodice."
brassy (adj.)
"impudent," 1570s, from brass (n.) + -y (2). Compare brazen. Literal sense of "coated with brass" is from 1580s. Sense of "debased and pretentious" is from 1580s, from brass as contrasted with gold; sense of "strident and artificial" is from 1865. Related: Brassily; brassiness.
brat (n.)
c. 1500, "beggar's child" ("... wyle beggar with thy brattis ...), originally slang, from a northern, Midlands and western England dialect word for "makeshift or ragged garment;" probably the same word as Old English bratt "cloak," which is from a Celtic source (compare Old Irish bratt "cloak, cloth"). The transferred meaning is perhaps from notion of "child's apron." Hollywood Brat Pack (modeled on 1950s Rat Pack) is from 1985. Brattery "nursery" is attested from 1788.
capital of Slovakia, a Slavic settlement named for its founder or chief; the name is the same element in the first half of the German name for the city, Pressburg (9c.).
bratty (adj.)
"spoiled and juvenile," 1929, from brat + -y (2).
bratwurst (n.)
type of sausage, 1904, from German Bratwurst, from wurst + Brät "lean meat, finely chipped calf or swine meat," from Old High German brato (12c.), from Proto-Germanic *bred-on- "roast flesh" (source also of Old English bræd "meat, flesh;" compare brawn), from PIE root *bhreu- "to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn." German folk etymology derives Brät from braten "to roast, bake, broil, grill;" more likely both are from the same ancient source.
German manufacturing company, named for founder Max Braun, mechanical engineer in Frankfurt am Main (1921).
bravado (n.)
1580s, "ostentatious courage, pretentious boldness," from French bravade "bragging, boasting," from Italian bravata "bragging, boasting" (16c.), from bravare "brag, boast, be defiant," from bravo "brave, bold" (see brave (adj.)). The English word was influenced in form by Spanish words ending in -ado. It also was used as a noun 17c.-18c., "swaggering fellow."
brave (adj.)
"exhibiting courage or courageous endurance," late 15c., from Middle French brave, "splendid, valiant," from Italian bravo "brave, bold," originally "wild, savage," a word of uncertain origin. Possibly from Medieval Latin bravus "cutthroat, villain," from Latin pravus "crooked, depraved;" a less likely etymology being from Latin barbarus (see barbarous). A Celtic origin (Irish breagh, Cornish bray) also has been suggested, and there may be a confusion of two or more words. Related: Bravely.

Old English words for this, some with overtones of "rashness," included modig (now "moody"), beald ("bold"), cene ("keen"), dyrstig ("daring"). Brave new world is from the title of Aldous Huxley's 1932 satirical utopian novel; he lifted the phrase from Shakespeare ("Tempest" v.i.183).
brave (n.)
"North American Indian warrior," 1827, from brave (adj.). Earlier "a hector, a bully" (1590s); "brave, bold, or daring person" (c. 1600). Compare bravado, bravo.
brave (v.)
"to face with bravery," 1761, from French braver, from brave "valiant" (see brave (adj.)). Related: Braved; braving.
bravery (n.)
1540s, "daring, defiance, boasting," from French braverie, from braver "to brave" (see brave (adj.)) or else from cognate Italian braveria, from bravare.
No Man is an Atheist, however he pretend it and serve the Company with his Braveries. [Donne, 1631]
The original deprecatory sense is obsolete; as a good quality attested perhaps from 1580s, but it is not always possible to distinguish the senses. Meaning "fine clothes, showiness" is from 1560s and holds the older notion of ostentatious pretense.
bravo (interj.)
"well done!," 1761, from Italian bravo, literally "brave" (see brave (adj.)). Earlier it was used as a noun meaning "desperado, hired killer" (1590s). Superlative form is bravissimo.
It is held by some philologists that as "Bravo!" is an exclamation its form should not change, but remain bravo under all circumstances. Nevertheless "bravo" is usually applied to a male, "brava" to a female artist, and "bravi" to two or more. ["Elson's Music Dictionary," 1905]
bravura (n.)
1788, "a spirited, florid piece of music requiring great skill in the performer," from Italian bravura "bravery, spirit" (see brave (adj.)). Sense of "display of brilliancy, dash" is from 1813.
braw (adj.)
"handsome, worthy, excellent," Scottish formation and pronunciation of brave.
brawl (v.)
late 14c., braulen "to cry out, scold, quarrel," probably related to Dutch brallen "to boast," or from French brailler "to shout noisily," frequentative of braire "to bray" (see bray (v.)). Meaning "quarrel, wrangle, squabble" is from early 15c. Related: Brawled; brawler; brawling.
brawl (n.)
mid-15c., "noisy disturbance," from brawl (v.). Meaning "fist-fight" is by 1873.
brawn (n.)
late 13c., "boar's flesh;" early 14c., "flesh of a muscular part of the body," from Old French braon "fleshy or muscular part, buttock," from Frankish *brado "ham, roast" or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *bred-on- (source also of Old High German brato "tender meat," German Braten "roast," Old Norse brað "raw meat," Old English bræd "flesh"), from PIE *bhre- "burn, heat," from root *bhreu- "to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn."

The etymological sense is "piece of meat suitable for roasting." "The specific sense 'boar's flesh' is exclusively of English development, and characteristic of English habits" [OED]. Meaning "well-developed muscles, muscular strength" is from 1865.
brawny (adj.)
1590s, "bulky and strong, characterized by muscle," from brawn + -y (2). Related: Brawniness.
Braxton Hicks
in reference to uterine contractions in pregnancy, 1905, from the name of English obstetrician John Braxton Hicks (1823-1897), who described them in 1872.
bray (v.)
"utter a loud and harsh cry," c. 1300, from Old French braire "to cry," from Gallo-Roman *bragire "to cry out" (11c.), perhaps from a Celtic source (compare Gaelic braigh "to shriek, crackle"), probably imitative. Related: Brayed; braying.
bray (n.)
"a harsh cry," especially that of an ass, c. 1300, from bray (v.).
braze (v.1)
1580s, "to expose to the action of fire" perhaps (but the sense evolution is odd) from French braser "to solder," in Old French, "to burn," related to brese "embers," ultimately from West Germanic *brasa, from PIE root *bhreu- "to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn." Related: Brazed; brazing. Sense of "to solder" is attested in English from 1670s.
braze (v.2)
"to make of or cover in brass," Old English brasian "to do work in brass, make of brass," from bræs (see brass (n.)). Compare glaze from glass.
brazen (adj.)
Old English bræsen "of brass," from bræs "brass" (see brass (n.)) + -en (2). The figurative sense of "hardened in effrontery" is from 1570s (in brazen-faced), perhaps suggesting a face unable to show shame. To brazen it "face impudently" is from 1550s. Related: Brazenly.
brazier (n.)
"metal container to hold live coals," 1680s, from French brasier "pan of hot coals," from Old French brasier, from brese "embers," ultimately from West Germanic *brasa (compare braze (v.1)), from PIE root *bhreu- "to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn."
early 14c., brasile, "brasilwood," name of a type of red wood from an East Indian tree, used in making dye (in modern times known as sappan-wood or Indian redwood), from Medieval Latin brasilium, Old French bresil, which probably is related to brese "embers," and like it from a Germanic source (compare braze (v.1)), from PIE root *bhreu- "to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn," and so called for resemblance of color to a glowing ember. But as the product came to Europe via India perhaps this is a folk-etymology of some word in Arabic or another Asian language (an Old Italian form, verzino, suggests to some a possible connection with Arabic wars "saffron").

The same word for the same stuff entered Portuguese and Spanish (brasil) and Italian (brasile). The South American country was named Santa Cruz by its "discoverer," Pedro Alvarez Cabral (1500), but within a decade on maps it began to be called terra de brasil "red-dyewood land" because it produced a valuable red dyewood similar to East Indian type, and that name predominated from 1550s.

Complicating matters is Hy Brasil, a name attested since early 14c. for a legendary island or rock in the North Atlantic off the west coast of Ireland. It is so-called perhaps from the "red dyewood" word by association with Pliny's Insulae Purpurariae ("Purple Islands") in the Atlantic off the coast of Morocco.
capital of Republic of Congo, named for French explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza (1852-1905), who founded it in 1883. An Italian count, his title is from the Adriatic island of Brazza, now Brač in Croatia.
by 1996, internet chat acronym for be right back.
breach (n.)
Old English bryce "a fracture, act of breaking," from brecan "to shatter, burst; injure, violate, destroy, curtail" (see break (v.)), influenced by Old French breche "breach, opening, gap," from Frankish; both from Proto-Germanic *brecho, *bræko "broken," from PIE root *bhreg- "to break."

Figurative sense of "infraction, violation, a breaking of rules, etc." was in Old English. Meaning "opening made by breaking" is from late 14c. Meaning "rupture of friendly relations" is from 1570s. Breach of contract is from at least 1660s; breach of peace "violation of public order" is from 1670s; breach of promise (usually promise of marriage) is from 1580s.
breach (v.)
"make a breach or opening in," 1570s, from breach (n.). Related: Breached; breaching.
bread (n.)
"kind of food made from flour or the meal of some grain, kneaded into a dough, fermented, and baked," Old English bread "bit, crumb, morsel; bread," cognate with Old Norse brauð, Danish brød, Old Frisian brad, Middle Dutch brot, Dutch brood, German Brot. According to one theory [Watkins, etc.] from Proto-Germanic *brautham, from PIE root *bhreu- "to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn," in reference to the leavening.

But OED argues at some length for the basic sense being not "cooked food" but "piece of food," and the Old English word deriving from a Proto-Germanic *braudsmon- "fragments, bits" (cognate with Old High German brosma "crumb," Old English breotan "to break in pieces") and being related to the root of break (v.). It cites Slovenian kruh "bread," literally "a piece."

Either way, by c. 1200 it had replaced the usual Old English word for "bread," which was hlaf (see loaf (n.)).

Extended sense of "food, sustenance in general" (late 12c.) is perhaps via the Lord's Prayer. Slang meaning "money" dates from 1940s, but compare breadwinner, and bread as "one's livelihood" dates to 1719. Bread and circuses (1914) is from Latin, in reference to food and entertainment provided by the government to keep the populace content. "Duas tantum res anxius optat, Panem et circenses" [Juvenal, Sat. x.80].
bread (v.)
"to dress with bread crumbs," 1620s, from bread (n.). Related: Breaded; breading.
bread-and-butter (adj.)
"pertaining to basic material needs," from the noun phrase, "one's means of living," 1685, a figurative use of the words for the basic foodstuffs; see bread (n.) + butter (n.). Also, in reference to bread-and-butter as the typical food of young boys and girls, "of the age of growth; school-aged" (1620s).
bread-basket (n.)
1550s, "basket for holding bread," from bread (n.) + basket (n.). Slang meaning "stomach" is attested from 1753, especially in pugilism.
breadth (n.)
"distance between the sides," late 14c., alteration of brede "breadth," from Old English brædu "breadth, width, extent," from bræd; probably by analogy of long/length.
breadwinner (n.)
also bread-winner, "one who supplies a living for himself and others," especially a family, 1821, from the noun bread (probably in a literal sense) + winner, from win (v.) in its sense of "struggle for, work at." Attested slightly earlier (1818) in sense "skill or art by which one makes a living." Not too far removed from the image at the root of lord (n.).
break (n.)
c. 1300, "act of breaking, forcible disruption or separation," from break (v.). Sense in break of day "first appearance of light in the morning" is from 1580s; meaning "sudden, marked transition from one course, place, or state to another" is by 1725. Sense of "short interval between spells of work" (originally between lessons at school) is from 1861. Meaning "stroke of luck" is attested by 1911, probably an image from billiards (where the break that scatters the ordered balls and starts the game is attested from 1865). Meaning "stroke of mercy" is from 1914. Jazz musical sense of "improvised passage, solo" is from 1920s. Broadcasting sense is by 1941.
break (v.)
Old English brecan "to divide solid matter violently into parts or fragments; to injure, violate (a promise, etc.), destroy, curtail; to break into, rush into; to burst forth, spring out; to subdue, tame" (class IV strong verb; past tense bræc, past participle brocen), from Proto-Germanic *brekan (source also of Old Frisian breka, Dutch breken, Old High German brehhan, German brechen, Gothic brikan), from PIE root *bhreg- "to break."

Closely related to breach (n.), brake (n.1), brick (n.). The old past tense brake is obsolete or archaic; past pariticiple is broken, but shortened form broke is attested from 14c. and was "exceedingly common" [OED] 17c.-18c.

Of bones in Old English. Formerly also of cloth, paper, etc. Meaning "escape by breaking an enclosure" is from late 14c. Intransitive sense "be or become separated into fragments or parts under action of some force" is from late 12c. Meaning "lessen, impair" is from late 15c. Meaning "make a first and partial disclosure" is from early 13c. Meaning "destroy continuity or completeness" in any way is from 1741. In reference to the heart from early 13c. (intransitive); to break (someone's) heart is late 14c.

Break bread "share food" (with) is from late 14c. To break ground is from 1670s as "to dig, plow," from 1709 in the figurative sense "begin to execute a plan." To break the ice "overcome the feeling of restraint in a new acquaintanceship" is from c. 1600, in reference to the "coldness" of encounters of strangers. Break wind first attested 1550s. To break (something) out (1890s) probably is an image from dock work, of freeing cargo before unloading it.

The ironic theatrical good luck formula break a leg (by 1948, said to be from at least 1920s) has parallels in German Hals- und Beinbruch "break your neck and leg," and Italian in bocca al lupo. Evidence of a highly superstitious craft (see Macbeth). According to Farmer & Henley, in 17c. the expression was used euphemistically, of a woman, "to have a bastard."
break-dancing (n.)
1982, but the style itself evolved late 1970s in South Bronx. The reference is to the rhythmic break in a pop-dance song (see break (n.)), which the DJs isolated and the dancers performed to. Breakdown "a riotous dance, in the style of the negroes" [OED] is recorded from 1864. Related: Break-dance; break-dancer.
break-even (adj.)
also breakeven; usually with point, 1938, from the verbal phrase (1910); see break (v.) + even (adv.). The verbal phrase in the financial sense is recorded from 1914.
breakable (adj.)
"capable of being broken," 1560s, from break (v.) + -able. As a noun, breakables is attested from 1820.
breakage (n.)
1767, "loss or damage done by breaking;" 1813, "action of breaking;" from break (v.) + -age.
also break-away, 1906 (n.), in reference to sports; 1930s (adj.) in reference to splinter groups; from the verbal phrase (attested from 1530s in the sense "disengage oneself abruptly, escape"); see break (v.) + away (adv.).
breakdown (n.)
also break-down, 1832, "a collapse, a falling apart," from the verbal phrase (attested by late 14c. in the sense "take down by breaking" (trans.); 1831 in the intransitive sense "come down by breaking; 1856 as "to fail through incapacity, excess emotion, etc."); see break (v.) + down (adv.). The noun, specifically of machinery, is from 1838; meaning "an analysis in detail" is from 1936 (from the verbal phrase in the sense "analyze, classify," 1934). Also in 19c. American English "a noisy, lively dance sometimes accompanied by singing" (1864). Nervous breakdown is from 1905.
breaker (n.)
late 12c., "one who or that which breaks;" 1680s as "heavy ocean wave," agent noun from break (v.). Related: Breakers.