General English

General Science

  • adjective not produced from renewable sources


  • adjective Partially or wholly untreated e.g. brown rice, brown sugar


  • noun the anus. In this sense the word is probably an abbreviation of brown eye.
  • noun a ten pound note or an amount of £10, from the colour of the banknote
  • noun a cigarette, almost invariably used in the plural form, presumably from the colour of the tobacco
  • noun heroin
  • symbolH


  • verb to make something brown

Origin & History of “brown”

In Old English, brown meant, rather vaguely, ‘dark’; it does not seem to have become a definite colour word until the 13th century. It comes from west and north Germanic *brūnaz, which probably goes back ultimately to the same Indo-European source (*bheros) as bear, etymologically the ‘brown (that is, dark) animal’. An additional meaning of brown in Old and middle English, shared also by related words such as Old high German brūn, was ‘shining, glistening’, particularly as applied to weapons (it survives in fossilized form in the old ballad Cospatrick, recorded in 1802: ‘my bonny brown sword’); Old French took it over when it borrowed brun from Germanic, and it is the basis of the verb burnir ‘polish’, from which English gets burnish (14th c.). Another contribution made by French brun to English is the feminine diminutive form brunette (17th c.). An earlier Old French variant burnete had previously been borrowed by English in the 12th century as burnet, and since the 14th century has been applied to a genus of plants of the rose family. The term burnet moth is first recorded in 1842.