Definition of brandish
- brandished a knife at them
- brandishing her intellect
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She brandished a stick at the dog.
I could see that he was brandishing a knife.
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Most of the time when we encounter the word brandish in print, it is followed by a word for a weapon, such as "knife" or "handgun." That’s appropriate given the word’s etymology: it derives via Middle English braundisshen from brant, braund, the Anglo-French word for "sword." Nowadays you can brandish things other than weapons, however. The figurative usage of brandish rose alongside its earliest literal usage in the 14th century. When you brandish something that isn’t a weapon (such as a sign), you are in effect waving it in someone’s face so that it cannot be overlooked.
First Known Use: 14th centurySee Words from the same year
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