[bras, brahs]
any of various metal alloys consisting mainly of copper and zinc.
a utensil, ornament, or other article made of such an alloy.
brass instruments collectively in a band or orchestra.
metallic yellow; lemon, amber, or reddish yellow.
high-ranking military officers.
any very important officials.
Informal. excessive self-assurance; impudence; effrontery.
Machinery. a replaceable semicylindrical shell, usually of bronze, used with another such to line a bearing; a half bushing. See diag. under exploded view.
British. a memorial tablet or plaque, often incised with an effigy, coat of arms, or the like.
Furniture. any piece of ornamental or functional hardware, as a drawer pull, made of brass.
British Slang. money.
of, made of, or pertaining to brass.
composed for or using musical instruments made of brass.
having the color brass.

before 1000; 1945–50 for def 5; Middle English bras, Old English bræs; cognate with Old Frisian bres copper, Middle Low German bras metal

brassish, adjective

6. cheek, nerve, brashness, gall, chutzpa. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
brass (brɑːs)
1.  Compare bronze an alloy of copper and zinc containing more than 50 per cent of copper. Alpha brass (containing less than 35 per cent of zinc) is used for most engineering materials requiring forging, pressing, etc Alpha-beta brass (35--45 per cent zinc) is used for hot working and extrusion. Beta brass (45--50 per cent zinc) is used for castings. Small amounts of other metals, such as lead or tin, may be added
2.  an object, ornament, or utensil made of brass
3.  a.  the large family of wind instruments including the trumpet, trombone, French horn, etc, each consisting of a brass tube blown directly by means of a cup- or funnel-shaped mouthpiece
 b.  (sometimes functioning as plural) instruments of this family forming a section in an orchestra
 c.  (as modifier): a brass ensemble
4.  a renewable sleeve or bored semicylindrical shell made of brass or bronze, used as a liner for a bearing
5.  informal (functioning as plural) See also brass hat important or high-ranking officials, esp military officers: the top brass
6.  dialect (Northern English) money: where there's muck, there's brass!
7.  (Brit) an engraved brass memorial tablet or plaque, set in the wall or floor of a church
8.  informal bold self-confidence; cheek; nerve: he had the brass to ask for more time
9.  slang a prostitute
10.  (modifier) of, consisting of, or relating to brass or brass instruments: a brass ornament; a brass band
Related: brazen
[Old English bræs; related to Old Frisian bres copper, Middle Low German bras metal]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

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 the Bible, etc., likely means "bronze." Words for "brass" in other languages (e.g. Ger. Messing, O.E. mæsling, Fr. laiton, It. ottone) also tend to be fficult 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 ssme thing) attested by 1960s.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
brass   (brās)  Pronunciation Key 
A yellowish alloy of copper and zinc, usually 67 percent copper and 33 percent zinc. It sometimes includes small amounts of other metals. Brass is strong, ductile, and resistant to many forms of corrosion.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

brass definition

Musical instruments traditionally made of brass and played by blowing directly into a small, cup-shaped mouthpiece. They include the French horn, trumpet, trombone, and tuba.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Bible Dictionary

Brass definition

which is an alloy of copper and zinc, was not known till the thirteenth century. What is designated by this word in Scripture is properly copper (Deut. 8:9). It was used for fetters (Judg. 16:21; 2 Kings 25:7), for pieces of armour (1 Sam. 17:5, 6), for musical instruments (1 Chr. 15:19; 1 Cor. 13:1), and for money (Matt. 10:9). It is a symbol of insensibility and obstinacy in sin (Isa. 48:4; Jer. 6:28; Ezek. 22:18), and of strength (Ps. 107:16; Micah 4:13). The Macedonian empire is described as a kingdom of brass (Dan. 2:39). The "mountains of brass" Zechariah (6:1) speaks of have been supposed to represent the immutable decrees of God. The serpent of brass was made by Moses at the command of God (Num. 21:4-9), and elevated on a pole, so that it might be seen by all the people when wounded by the bite of the serpents that were sent to them as a punishment for their murmurings against God and against Moses. It was afterwards carried by the Jews into Canaan, and preserved by them till the time of Hezekiah, who caused it to be at length destroyed because it began to be viewed by the people with superstitious reverence (2 Kings 18:4). (See NEHUSHTAN.) The brazen serpent is alluded to by our Lord in John 3:14, 15. (See SERPENT.)

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


In addition to the idioms beginning with brass, also see bold as brass; double in brass; get down to brass tacks.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Images for brass
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