What are Brownie Points? – Origin & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Idiomatic expressions can add color and depth to our language, whether in spoken or written forms. One of these common expressions is “brownie points.” As delicious as it sounds, it actually has nothing to do with the gooey fudge cookies.

I’ll talk about the meaning and the origin of this phrase, as well as how to properly use it, and will even discuss its potential offensiveness and suggest some synonyms.

The Meaning of Brownie Points

What are Brownie Points Origin Meaning

“Brownie points” is an informal idiom. It basically means imaginary or hypothetical points you earn for performing good deeds, showing good behavior, or simply pleasing someone. I know what you’re thinking, “but that just sounds like being a good person.”

While true, this case of positive behavior is often with the intention of gaining someone’s favor or approval. In simple terms, it means being good or doing good deeds just to get someone’s attention or approval.

Brownie Points Origin

One of the most popular origin theories is that it’s derived from the term “brown-noser,” which means someone who flatters or ingratiates themselves with others to gain their approval. It makes sense, so it’s a commonly accepted theory.

I’ve always known the phrase to come from the Brownies, a junior section of the Girl Scouts and Girl Guides organizations I was part of as a kid. Brownie members would earn merit badges or points for completing tasks and demonstrating good behavior. This mark of achievement would get them brownie points. 

But the term became popular right around the 1940s and 1950s in an article by the Los Angeles Times titled Brownie Points – A New Measure of a Husband, which talked about how husbands can figure out where they stand with their wives in terms of favor and disfavor.

What Is the Opposite of Brownie Points?

There actually isn’t a direct antonym for “brownie points” because the phrase refers to earning favor or approval. But you could consider phrases like “losing favor” or “falling out of grace” as somewhat opposite, in meaning at least, to brownie points.

Is “Brownie Point” Offensive?

The actual meaning isn’t generally meant as offensive. Brownie point means gaining good favor, after all. But it can be used in a way that implies someone who’s normally only being nice to gain something, like when the bully in school is being nice to you in front of the teacher.

When to Use the Phrase Brownie Points

The phrase “brownie points” adds a lighthearted and playful tone to any discussion so that you can use it in informal and casual situations. You can use it to describe your efforts to gain favor or just comment on someone else’s attempts to get favor with those around you.

What’s Another Word for Brownie Points

  • Kudos
  • Credit
  • Props
  • Recognition
  • Praise
  • Approval
  • Commendation

Brownie Points Examples in a Sentence

What are Brownie Points Origin Meaning 1
  • I helped my neighbor and landlord carry her groceries upstairs, hoping to earn a few brownie points because I wanted to later ask if I could paint my apartment.
  • My husband stayed late at the office every day this week, clearly trying to score brownie points with the boss so he has a better chance of getting that promotion.
  • Karen always brings homemade treats to the office, which has earned her a lot of brownie points with her coworkers, and no one complains.
  • He knew that remembering their anniversary would get him some brownie points with his wife.
  • Instead of cash prizes, we’re just giving out brownie points this time. 
  • Volunteering for the extra assignment was a smart move – it definitely won me some brownie points with the professor.

You Get Brownie Points for Reading This Article

That’s a wrap on another guide to idioms! I bet you always thought brownie points had something to do with the yummy treats, didn’t you? Now you know the real meaning, though. It’s a phrase that comes from Girl Guides, and you use it to show that someone is being a little too nice in an attempt to gain someone’s favor.

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