bran·​dish | \ ˈbran-dish How to pronounce brandish (audio) \
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

Verb She brandished a stick at the dog. I could see that he was brandishing a knife.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb However, when the accused has a minimal criminal history and didn’t shoot or brandish the weapon, Manhattan prosecutors typically offer a plea to a lesser felony and a two-year prison sentence. Deanna Paul, WSJ, "Manhattan District Attorney Candidates Throw Out Traditional Playbook," 15 Mar. 2021 After arriving at the high school Friday, Shallerhorn allegedly robbed a 39-year-old man sitting in a vehicle in the parking lot, raising his shirt to brandish a firearm and demanding the victim's medallion chain, police said. Danielle Wallace, Fox News, "Louisiana police officer fatally shot over alleged mask dispute at high school basketball game," 1 Mar. 2021 Pyongyang has long used military parades to brandish its weaponry and heap praise on the ruling Kim family. Timothy W. Martin And Andrew Jeong, WSJ, "Kim Jong Un’s Military Parade Seen as Potential North Korean Weapons Showcase," 8 Oct. 2020 The office said that the video showed Munoz emerge from a house and brandish the knife in a threatening manner. Fox News, "Protests emerge in Lancaster after fatal shooting of man armed with knife: DA," 14 Sep. 2020 Schwartz says that the McCloskeys had every right, under Missouri’s castle doctrine, to brandish their weapons once protesters entered the private street. Washington Post, "The gun-toting McCloskeys said they feared death. They survived to fight the culture wars.," 25 Aug. 2020 People who brandish weapons in public spaces get disproportionate attention from public officials, much more than public health experts. Kyle Whitmire, al, "Alabamafication unmasked," 1 July 2020 Gassing a peaceful crowd so that Trump could strut across Lafayette Square to brandish a Bible, which Ivanka had carried over for him in her white $1,400 Max Mara bag, was likely the turning point. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "The Revolt of the Center-Right," 8 June 2020 The statement comes after days of condemnation from current and former military leaders about the President’s apparent eagerness to brandish the nation’s armed services as a way to crush domestic turmoil. John Walcott, Time, "Pulled Into Yet Another Political Battle, the Pentagon Finally Pushes Back Against Trump," 3 June 2020

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

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

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Time Traveler for brandish

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for brandish

Last Updated

19 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Brandish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.

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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 How to pronounce brandish (audio) \
brandished; brandishing

Kids Definition of brandish

: to wave or shake in a threatening manner

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Comments on brandish

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