Brown-nose and brownnose

Brown-nose or brownnose is an idiom that was first seen in the twentieth century. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as beat around the bush, cut the mustard, let the cat out of the bag, hit the sack, ankle biter, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom brown-nose or brownnose, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Brown-nose and brownnose are two spellings of an idiom that means to shamelessly flatter someone in order to obtain favor or avoid punishment, to fawn over someone, to be obsequious or subservient. The term brown-nose has an unsavory origin. Brown-nose came into use in the 1930s in the American armed forces, and is based on the image of the servile position of sticking one’s nose into someone’s anus. Surprisingly, though the idiom has a vulgar origin, the term brown-nose or brownnose is not currently considered to be a vulgar term. Brown-nose is the preferred spelling according to the Oxford English Dictionary, though the spelling brownnose is becoming more common. Brown-nose is a compound word, which is a word derived from two separate words used together to create another word. A compound is a new word that has a different meaning than the definitions of the original words. New compound words usually consist of two, separate words, and are called open compound words. Midway through their evolution, compound words may acquire hyphens between the two words. When a compound becomes a closed compound word, which consists of two words joined without any hyphen or space, it has usually been in use for a long time. The advent of the internet has sped up the process of becoming a closed compound word.  Brown-nose and brownnose may be used as a noun or a verb, related words are brown-noser or brownnoser, brown-noses or brownnoses, brown-nosed or brownnosed, brown-nosing or brownnosing.


Each key character gets his or her own spotlight number (or numbers), from the endearing title song to “A Trip to Library” (which is like a short story in its own right), from the brown-nose anthem “Perspective” to the villain’s smiling-while-nasty farewell song, “Grand Knowing You.” (Broadway World)

Yes, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp has also brown-nosed Trump, but she has have never sunk this low. (The Grand Forks Herald)

We all want to get ahead in our careers — and some people are willing to do whatever it takes, including brownnosing, to get there. (The Business Insider)

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