bran·​dish | \ˈbran-dish \
brandished; brandishing; brandishes

Definition of brandish 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to shake or wave (something, such as a weapon) menacingly brandished a knife at them

2 : to exhibit in an ostentatious or aggressive manner brandishing her intellect



Definition of brandish (Entry 2 of 2)

: an act or instance of waving something menacingly or exhibiting something ostentatiously or aggressively : an act or instance of brandishing

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Choose the Right Synonym for brandish


swing, wave, flourish, brandish, thrash mean to wield or cause to move to and fro or up and down. swing implies regular or uniform movement. swing the rope back and forth wave usually implies smooth or continuous motion. waving the flag flourish suggests vigorous, ostentatious, graceful movement. flourished the winning lottery ticket brandish implies threatening or menacing motion. brandishing a knife thrash suggests vigorous, abrupt, violent movement. an infant thrashing his arms about

Did You Know?


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.

Examples of brandish in a Sentence


She brandished a stick at the dog. I could see that he was brandishing a knife.

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The hoodie-wearing gang seemed to engage in simple tactics: literally walk in, brandish no weapons, grab electronics, and run out. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "California Apple Store robbery gang stole over $1M in goods, cops say," 28 Sep. 2018 Ruthless, indomitable and voracious, the femme fatale Asughara brandishes Ada like a weapon. David Wright, The Seattle Times, "‘Freshwater’: a bewitching tale of gods and a girl coming of age," 20 Feb. 2018 Davis faces charges of carjacking, armed bank robbery and two counts of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. Eric Heisig,, "Feds threaten 18-year-old with decades in prison in carjacking, bank robbery case," 12 Apr. 2018 Last December, Latoya Taylor, 24, pleaded guilty to two counts of interference with commerce by robbery and one count of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. Houston Chronicle, "Woman ordered to prison for two auto store robberies," 4 Apr. 2018 One minute the letter carrier was delivering mail outside West Palm Beach and the next the U.S. Postal Service employee was robbed by two people — including a man brandishing pepper spray. Wayne K. Roustan,, "$50,000 reward offer to catch letter carrier robbers," 26 June 2018 Politically, impeachment is the equivalent of nuclear war, and many Democrats fear merely brandishing the threat will backfire, antagonizing Republicans and energizing conservative voters who might otherwise skip the midterm vote. Mark Z. Barabak,, "Impeach Trump? Even Democrats who despise the president can't agree on a strategy for the midterm election," 25 June 2018 Both men face charges of robbery and brandishing firearms during a crime of violence. Karen Farkas,, "Cuyahoga County voter turnout at 19.5 percent with two hours to go," 8 May 2018 The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office arrested a Gretna man accused of brandishing a pistol at a woman during a bout of road rage. Michelle Hunter,, "Gretna driver with road rage flashed gun at woman, JPSO said," 5 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'brandish.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of brandish


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1601, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for brandish


Middle English braundisshen, from Anglo-French brandiss-, stem of brandir, from brant, braund sword, of Germanic origin; akin to Old English brand


see brandish entry 1

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Statistics for brandish

Last Updated

8 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for brandish

The first known use of brandish was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for brandish



English Language Learners Definition of brandish

: to wave or swing (something, such as a weapon) in a threatening or excited manner


bran·​dish | \ˈbran-dish \
brandished; brandishing

Kids Definition of brandish

: to wave or shake in a threatening manner

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More from Merriam-Webster on brandish

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with brandish

Spanish Central: Translation of brandish

Nglish: Translation of brandish for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of brandish for Arabic Speakers

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