"impudent," 1570s, from brass (n.) + -y (2). Compare brazen. The literal sense of "coated with brass" is from 1580s. The sense of "debased and pretentious" is from 1580s, from brass as contrasted with gold; the sense of "strident and artificial" is from 1865. Related: Brassily; brassiness.
Entries linking to brassy
"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 alloy. [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. The slang sense of "high officials" is first recorded 1899, from their insignia. The meaning "brass musical instruments of a band" is from 1832.
adjective suffix, "full of or characterized by," from Old English -ig, from Proto-Germanic *-iga- (source also of Dutch, Danish, German -ig, Gothic -egs), from PIE -(i)ko-, adjectival suffix, cognate with elements in Greek -ikos, Latin -icus (see -ic). Originally added to nouns in Old English; used from 13c. with verbs, and by 15c. even with other adjectives (for example crispy).
updated on October 23, 2022