Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Brandish

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is brandish. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

To brandish is to shake or wave something, such as a weapon, in a menacing manner. In figurative use, it is to exhibit something, such as one’s intellect, ostentatiously or aggressively.

// Michael appeared before the town council brandishing a petition signed by 500 people asking the town to increase funding for the public skate park.

BRANDISH in Context

“If someone is caught by police brandishing an imitation gun in a public place, they could face fines, an arrest or have the object seized by police.” — The Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, Illinois), 15 June 2022

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.

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