Etymology
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bristle (n.)

"stiff, coarse hair of certain animals," especially those set along the backs of hogs, Old English byrst "bristle," with metathesis of -r-, from Proto-Germanic *bursti- (source also of Middle Dutch borstel, German borste, Danish börste), from PIE *bhrsti- from root *bhars- "point, bristle" (source also of Sanskrit bhrstih "point, spike"). With -el, diminutive suffix. Extended to similar appendages on some plants and insects.

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bristle (v.)

c. 1200 (implied in past-participle adjective bristled) "set or covered with bristles," from bristle (n.). Of hair, "to stand or become stiff and upright," late 15c. The extended meaning "become angry or excited" is 1540s, from the way animals show fight. Related: Bristling.

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brush (n.2)

"shrubbery, small trees and shrubs of a wood; branches of trees lopped off," mid-14c., from Anglo-French bruce "brushwood," Old North French broche, Old French broce "bush, thicket, undergrowth" (12c., Modern French brosse), from Gallo-Roman *brocia, perhaps from *brucus "heather," or possibly from the same source as brush (n.1).

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brush (n.3)

"a skirmish, a light encounter," c. 1400, probably from brush (v.2).

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brush (n.1)

"instrument consisting of flexible material (bristles, hair, etc.) attached to a handle or stock," late 14c., "dust-sweeper, a brush for sweeping," from Old French broisse, broce "a brush" (13c., Modern French brosse), perhaps from Vulgar Latin *bruscia "a bunch of new shoots" (used to sweep away dust), perhaps from Proto-Germanic *bruskaz "underbrush." Compare brush (n.2). As an instrument for applying paint, late 15c.; as an instrument for playing drums, 1927. Meaning "an application of a brush" is from 1822.

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brush (v.1)

late 15c., "clean or rub (clothing) with a brush," also (mid-15c.) "beat with a brush," from brush (n.1). The meaning "move or skim over with a slight contact" is from 1640s. Related: Brushed; brushing. To brush off someone or something, "rebuff, dismiss," is from 1941. To brush up is from c. 1600 as "clean by brushing;" the figurative sense of "revive or refresh one's knowledge" of anything is from 1788.

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brush (v.2)

"move briskly" especially past or against something or someone, 1670s, from earlier sense "to hasten, rush" (c. 1400); probably from brush (n.2) on the notion of a horse, etc., passing through dense undergrowth (compare Old French brosser "to dash (through woods or thickets)," and Middle English noun brush "charge, onslaught, encounter," mid-14c.). But brush (n.1) probably has contributed something to it, and OED suggests the English word could be all or partly onomatopoeic. Related: Brushed; brushing.

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air-brush (n.)

also airbrush, "atomizer used for spraying liquid ink or paint," 1883, from air (n.1) + brush (n.1). Invented a few years earlier but called at first paint distributer; renamed by U.S. manufacturer Liberty Walkup, who improved the design. As a verb by 1902. Related: Airbrushed; airbrushing.

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brush-burn (n.)

"injury resulting from violent friction," 1862, from brush (v.2) "move briskly" + burn (n.).

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brushfire (n.)

also brush-fire, "a blaze in brush or scrub," 1848, from brush (n.2) + fire (n.).

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