General English


  • verb to feed on plant material, especially the leaves of woody plants, which is not growing close to the ground.



  • To scan or view a file, group of files, or the World Wide Web. Browsing usually implies simply viewing, although some database programs enable editing as well.

Information & Library Science

  • verb to look through a book, magazine, database or shop in a casual way without definite intentions

Media Studies

  • noun a leisurely look through something such as a magazine or newspaper, or around a shop
  • verb to look up and view websites, particularly on the Internet

Origin & History of “browse”

Although the noun has now largely died out, browse was originally both a verb and a noun, and appears to come from Old French broust, brost ‘young shoots, twigs’ (hence the verb meant originally ‘feed on such shoots’). The source of the French word is not clear, but it is probably ultimately Germanic; a certain similarity in form and meaning has suggested a connection with the Old Saxon verb brustian ‘bud’ which, if it were so, would mean that browse is related to breast. The modern figurative sense, applied to shops, libraries, etc seems to be 19th-century.