Definition of brown-nose in US English:


(also brown-noser, brownnose)


  • A person who acts in a grossly obsequious way.

    • ‘If you've ever been in a meeting with an indecisive supervisor and a gaggle of brown-nosers, you know the sort of energy this creates.’
    • ‘Some bootlick brown-nose reported me to the council, so an officer was sent round.’
    • ‘He trusts fewer and fewer goons henchmen ministers, preferring unelected brown-nosers.’
    • ‘Oh this is so good, finally my brown-noser, do-gooder, goody two-shoes sister is going to get busted for something!’
    • ‘Not to sound like a brown-noser, but the directing in the film was top notch, where did you learn such skill?’
    • ‘I immediately ruled out those brown-nosers, though; spineless obedience is nice, but I couldn't depend on them to carry out dangerous tasks.’
    • ‘She knew that a voice that annoying could come from none other than the preppy, straight-laced brown-noser.’
    • ‘The old brown-noser wouldn't approach me with a ten-foot pole.’
    • ‘The stuck-up brown-nosers in school, the geeks and the nerds, they would have balked.’
    • ‘I hated the brown-nosers who threw away all self-respect to make others like them.’
    • ‘If he was anything like his mentor, the little brown-noser will be worse than his master, Anaa thought menacingly.’
    • ‘Being a good brown-nose, The Geek scurries off quickly and 30 seconds later I notice the red ‘LOCKOUT’ lamp on the swipe card readers illuminate.’
    • ‘He is the hate-filled middle manager, the brown-nose, the squealer, and especially the corporate mid-sized newspaper editor.’
    toady, creep, crawler, fawner, flatterer, flunkey, truckler, groveller, doormat, lickspittle, kowtower, obsequious person, minion, hanger-on, leech, puppet, spaniel, uriah heep
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[with object]informal
  • Curry favor with (someone) by acting in an obsequious way.

    ‘academics were brown-nosing the senior faculty’
    no object ‘I dedicated a book to him—I was not brown-nosing’
    • ‘Ninety-percent of the mag brown-noses local bars and restaurants; how is that being multi-cultural?’
    • ‘Wait… let me just say that I didn't brown-nose my way to the top.’
    • ‘Why would such a promising young reporter, a high school news editor from Virginia, with such a passion and a love for journalism, deny himself a chance to develop his craft, and brown-nose his way to a high-stress and chaotic position?’
    • ‘They argue that municipal judges may make judgments that brown-nose their superiors to keep their jobs.’
    • ‘Stop brown-nosing the boss, even if the boss is the irreproachable.’
    • ‘He relentlessly brown-nosed Norman Lamont and called him the greatest post-war chancellor.’
    • ‘I just don't see why I should brown-nose anyone.’
    • ‘And you're going to brown-nose the new boss perhaps?’
    • ‘But then, besides his politics (notable for lack of brown-nosing the likes of Donald Rumsfeld), Pinter is, horror, working class.’
    • ‘Addressing congress during its debate on Iraq, Chris Bryant MP was particularly anxious to brown-nose Blair for his supposed successes in this regard.’
    • ‘Meanwhile Rolf is being grovellingly apologetic and attempting to brown-nose his way into my affections.’
    • ‘He also dismisses any notion that he deserves praise for maintaining his approach, maintaining that he don't see why he should have to brown-nose anyone.’
    • ‘We too have a PM, John Howard, who is brown-nosing Bush every chance he gets.’
    • ‘He would never have orchestrated or taken part in that miserable love-fest up in Boston where pretender after pretender fell in line to promote their own careers by brown-nosing the Democratic establishment.’
    be obsequious to, be sycophantic to, be servile to, curry favour with, pay court to, play up to, crawl to, creep to, ingratiate oneself with, dance attendance on, fall over oneself for, kowtow to, toady to, truckle to, bow and scrape before, grovel before, cringe before, abase oneself before
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Early 20th century: from an association of subservience with having one’s nose in the anus of a more powerful person.