Definition of brownout in US English:



North American
  • A reduction in or restriction on the availability of electrical power in a particular area.

    ‘the cities are experiencing brownouts as air conditioners are switched into overdrive’
    • ‘Instead of general brown-outs, we get rolling black-outs.’
    • ‘‘We might not have that long, if Laurel keeps this up,’ Lucas said under his breath as another explosion caused a brief brown-out.’
    • ‘California, the world's sixth largest economy and home to booming Silicon Valley, had come perilously close to brown-outs on Thursday.’
    • ‘If we are already suffering water shortages, with suspected power brown-outs coming, how do they plan to support a 50% to 100% increase in the residential population?’
    • ‘Likewise, everyone has access to heat or lights with a simple flick of a switch; we don't suffer brown-outs or rolling blackouts, like some areas of the Third World.’
    • ‘Despite the expected traffic jams, potential electrical brown-outs and terrorist threats, modern Olympians and spectators have it easy, compared to their ancient counterparts.’
    • ‘This was back in the days, of course, when the New Zealand Electricity Department ran things and had a higher tolerance for brown-outs, evidently.’
    • ‘As Palm's PalmSource developer conference was due to kick off yesterday, much of central San Jose, which was hosting the jamboree, suffered a power brown-out.’
    • ‘With Edison's new system, brown-outs and black-outs were frequent, along with breakage and, at times, sparking and fires from short circuits and poor wiring.’
    • ‘As the California power crisis of this summer demonstrates, deregulation brings with it the added risk of brown-outs and even black-outs that no facility can afford.’
    • ‘Facility executives also should consult with utility engineers to determine whether it is better to cut power to the entire building rather than risk damage to equipment or data during brown-outs or loss of phase conditions.’
    • ‘Where I live now, power cuts haven't been much of a problem, but brown-outs are very common.’
    • ‘In fact, the rolling brown-outs and outrageous prices in the California energy market in 1999-2000 were reportedly exacerbated by production cut-backs in the face of the urgent demand.’
    power cut, power failure, electricity failure
    View synonyms


1940s: after blackout.