Sunday, 10 November 2013

Browbeat - Don't Have a Brow, Man

Browbeat, Bully, Bangster, Intimidate, Hector, Belswagger


Verb transitive & intransitive. Inflected as BEAT verb; past tense -beat, past participle usually -beaten. Late 16th century.
[from BROW noun + BEAT verb.]

Intimidate or discourage with stern, arrogant, or insolent looks or words; bully.

Also: browbeater noun L17

So when someone browbeats another person, or a person is browbeaten, what is actually going on? Bizarrely (and I don't think I'm the only one), I always thought that it was the victim's brows being beaten, perhaps down into dejected submission by the hectoring bully's icy glares or intimidating words. But no. It would seem that, from it's earliest origins, it is actually the bully beating their own brows at the victim: one can easily envisage the furrowed forehead and bobbing brows of the scolding boss or disapproving parent. This is worth remembering for the next time one finds themselves on the end of a bangster's beating brows. Just tell them politely that it's not your brows being beaten, but they are in fact beating their own brows and maybe that's something they should think about. That will work - it always does. There's nothing quite like an etymological riposte to take the beat out of a bully's brows.

Are you a browbeater?

Have you been browbeaten recently?

Did you (honestly) know how browbeating works?

Do please leave your most intimidating, insolent and arrogant comments below.


  1. Well, goodness me.
    I'm another one who thought the browbeatee was the one whose brows were getting beaten, not the browbeater's.
    So, does the 'beat' part mean to 'lower' the eyebrows at?
    If should be browlower then! Nah, it doesn't work does it?! :)