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bran·​dish ˈbran-dish How to pronounce brandish (audio)
brandished; brandishing; brandishes

transitive verb

: to shake or wave (something, such as a weapon) menacingly
brandished a knife at them
: to exhibit in an ostentatious or aggressive manner
brandishing her intellect


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

Did you know?

Often 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 is a descendant of the Middle English braundisshen, which comes from the Anglo-French brant or braund, a word of Germanic origin meaning “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 or a letter), you are in effect waving it in someone’s face so that it cannot be overlooked.

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

Examples of brandish in a Sentence

Verb She brandished a stick at the dog. I could see that he was brandishing a knife.
Recent Examples on the Web
The dozen-odd agents brandished their pistols and credentials. Elliot Ackerman, WIRED, 12 Feb. 2024 Jose Gutierrez Ojeda initially brandished a pistol and appeared to rack the firearm to chamber a round. John Molseed, Twin Cities, 5 Feb. 2024 After retiring as a lieutenant, Villanueva made one more bid in 2018 to lead the Sheriff’s Department, pledging to get federal immigration agents out of jails and brandishing his status as a Democrat. Rebecca Ellis, Los Angeles Times, 1 Feb. 2024 Lopez-Gutierrez took a plea deal, pleading guilty to charges of kidnapping and use, carry and brandishing of firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. Jennifer Rodriguez, Kansas City Star, 25 Jan. 2024 Strips of living bark wind around a bristlecone trunk sculpted by ice and wind to culminate in the green bottle-brush of a branch that brandishes a few fertile cones. Paul McHugh, Sacramento Bee, 31 Jan. 2024 In the film, Truman merely brandishes the handkerchief, looking at Oppenheimer with a mocking pout. Jeffrey Kluger, TIME, 29 Jan. 2024 The motion cited a recent Office of Inspector General report raising concerns about the number of incidents in which deputies drunkenly brandished or lost their guns. Keri Blakinger, Los Angeles Times, 24 Jan. 2024 An investigation revealed the suspect hit a dog multiple times with an umbrella and brandished a knife in a threatening manner. Anne Gelhaus, The Mercury News, 5 Jan. 2024
The image of the grotesque chimera which Beck brandishes is a pointer to this reality, and Beck isn't alone in his incredulity. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 20 Oct. 2010 Police have said robbers wearing hooded sweatshirts and masks entered the stores in groups ranging from one to five and brandish firearms while demanding money and products from clerks. Karen Kucher, San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 Dec. 2023 Many brandish flags and banners for their team of choice, and a group of young women call to every driver by their first name, waving and jumping with unbridled enthusiasm. Caleb Miller, Car and Driver, 12 June 2023 Renfield joins a support group, brandishes a self-help book like a protective crucifix and, during a makeover montage, swaps his gothic rags for khakis. Amy Nicholson,, 13 Apr. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'brandish.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Verb and Noun

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

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1601, in the meaning defined above

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


Dictionary Entries Near brandish

Cite this Entry

“Brandish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


: to shake or wave in a threatening manner
brandish a stick at a dog
: to exhibit in a showy or aggressive manner
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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