adj. brav·er, brav·est
1. Possessing or displaying courage.
2. Making a fine display; impressive or showy: “a coat of brave red lipstick on a mouth so wrinkled that it didn't even have a clear outline” (Anne Tyler).
3. Excellent; great: “The Romans were like brothers / In the brave days of old” (Thomas Macaulay).
1. (used with a pl. verb) People who exhibit bravery or courage considered as a group: “O'er the land of the free / And the home of the brave” (Francis Scott Key).
2. Offensive A Native American warrior.
3. Archaic A bully.
v. braved, brav·ing, braves
1. To endure or face courageously: “He remained in his tent on inclement mornings while others in the party braved the rain ... looking for birds” (Bert O. States). “Together they would brave Satan and all his legions” (Emily Brontë).
2. Obsolete To make showy or splendid.
To make a courageous show or put up a stalwart front.
[Early Modern English, from Middle French, from Old Italian bravo, wild, brave, excellent, probably from Vulgar Latin *brabus, possibly from alteration of Latin barbarus, foreign, savage, barbarian (from Greek barbaros, non-Greek, foreign; see BARBARISM), perhaps blended with Latin prāvus, crooked, perverse (possibly akin to per-, through, completely, as in perperus, faulty, wrong, and perīre, , to pass away, be lost; see PERISH).]
Synonyms: brave, courageous, fearless, intrepid, bold, audacious, valiant, valorous, mettlesome, plucky, dauntless, undaunted
These adjectives mean having or showing courage under difficult or dangerous conditions. Brave, the least specific, is frequently associated with an innate quality: “Familiarity with danger makes a brave man braver” (Herman Melville).
Courageous implies an inner strength that draws on principle or purpose as well as character: “The millions of refugees who have resettled here ... are courageous ... people who stood for something” (Robert E. Pierre and Paul Farhi).
Fearless emphasizes absence of fear and a willingness or even eagerness to take risks: “world-class [boating] races for fearless loners willing to face the distinct possibility of being run down, dismasted, capsized, attacked by whales” (Jo Ann Morse Ridley).
Intrepid suggests a fearlessness tempered by steadfast determination: “The great snowpeaks of the Himalayas isolated their communities from all but the most intrepid outsiders” (Mark Abley).
Bold stresses readiness to meet danger or difficulty and often a tendency to seek it out: “If we shrink from the hard contests where men must win at the hazard of their lives ... then the bolder and stronger peoples will pass us by” (Theodore Roosevelt).
Audacious implies daring, brazen, or extravagant boldness: “the audacious belief that many answers to questions of cosmic origin and evolution may be within their grasp” (John Noble Wilford).
Valiant and valorous suggest heroic bravery in service of a noble cause: “the valiant English who had defended their land for a thousand years” (Willie Morris). “The other hostages [will] never forget her calm, confident, valorous work” (William W. Bradley).
Mettlesome stresses spirit and love of challenge: “her horse, whose mettlesome spirit required a better rider” (Henry Fielding).
Plucky emphasizes spirit and heart in the face of unfavorable odds: “He couldn't abide the typical children's-book scenario of a plucky hero or heroine triumphing over adversity” (Christine M. Heppermann).
Dauntless and undaunted imply unflagging courage and a refusal to be dismayed: “So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war, / There never was knight like the young Lochinvar” (Sir Walter Scott). “Death and sorrow will be the companions of our journey.... We must be united, we must be undaunted, we must be inflexible” (Winston S. Churchill). See Also Synonyms at adventurous, defy.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.