AskDefine | Define brush

Dictionary Definition



1 a dense growth of bushes [syn: brushwood, coppice, copse, thicket]
2 an implement that has hairs or bristles firmly set into a handle
3 momentary contact [syn: light touch]
4 conducts current between rotating and stationary parts of a generator or motor
5 a minor short-term fight [syn: clash, encounter, skirmish]
6 the act of brushing your teeth; "the dentist recommended two brushes a day" [syn: brushing]
7 the act of brushing your hair; "he gave his hair a quick brush" [syn: brushing]
8 contact with something dangerous or undesirable; "I had a brush with danger on my way to work"; "he tried to avoid any brushes with the police"


1 rub with a brush, or as if with a brush; "Johnson brushed the hairs from his jacket"
2 touch lightly and briefly; "He brushed the wall lightly"
3 clean with a brush; "She brushed the suit before hanging it back into the closet"
4 sweep across or over; "Her long skirt brushed the floor"; "A gasp swept cross the audience" [syn: sweep]
5 remove with or as if with a brush; "brush away the crumbs"; "brush the dust from the jacket"; "brush aside the objections"
6 cover by brushing; "brush the bread with melted butter"

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. An implement with a handle, and a head with multiple more or less flexible bristles, used for any of various purposes including cleaning, painting, and arranging hair.
  2. A spring-loaded electrical contact, usually of carbon, between the stationary and rotating parts of a machine.
  3. The act of brushing something.
    She gave her hair a quick brush.
  4. Wild vegetation, generally larger than grass but smaller than trees.
  5. A short and sometimes occasional encounter or experience.
    He has had brushes with communism from time to time.
  6. The tail of a fox.
  7. In 3D computer games, a convex polyhedron, esp. one that defines structure of the play area.
  8. In the context of "poker|slang": The floorperson of a poker room, usually in a casino.


an implement with handle
electrical contact
act of brushing
wild vegetation
short experience
fox tail
  • German: Fuchsschwanz, Lunte, Standarte
  • Japanese: (お, o)
  • Russian: труба


  1. To clean with a brush.
    Brush your teeth.
  2. To untangle or arrange with a brush.
    Brush your hair.
  3. To apply with a brush.
    Brush the paint onto the walls.
  4. To remove with a sweeping motion.
    Brush the flour off your clothes.
  5. To touch with a sweeping motion.
    Her scarf brushed his skin.
    • 1990 October 28, Paul Simon, “Further to Fly”, The Rhythm of the Saints, Warner Bros.
      Maybe you will find a love that you discover accidentally, who falls against you gently as a pickpocket brushes your thigh.


to clean (with a brush)
to untangle/arrange
  • Dutch: borstelen
  • French: (se) brosser
  • German: bürsten
  • Kurdish:
    Sorani: شانه‌ کردن
  • Romanian: peria
  • Serbian: razmrsiti
  • Spanish: cepillar
to apply
to remove
  • Dutch: afborstelen
  • French: brosser
  • German: wischen
  • Romanian: mătura
  • Serbian: ukloniti
  • Spanish: recoger
to touch


Extensive Definition

"Paintbrush" redirects here. For other uses, see Paintbrush (disambiguation).
"Bottle brush" redirects here. For the tree, see Callistemon.
The term brush refers to devices with bristles, wire or other filaments, used for cleaning, grooming hair, make up making painting, deburring and other kinds of surface finishing, and for many other purposes.
Configurations include twisted-in wire (for example the brushes used to clean baby feeding bottles), cylinders, and disks (with bristles spread in one face or radially).
A common way of setting the bristle in the brush is the staple or anchor set brush, in which the filament is forced with a staple by the middle into a hole with a special driver and held there by the pressure against the walls of the hole and the portions of the staple nailed to the bottom of the hole. The staple can be substituted with a kind of anchor, which is a piece of rectangular profile wire that, instead of nailing itself to the bottom of hole, is anchored to the wall of the hole, like in most toothbrushes. Another way to attach the bristles to the surface can be found in the fused brush, in which instead of being inserted into a hole, a plastic fiber is welded to another plastic surface, giving the additional advantage of optionally using different diameters of tufts in the same brush, and a considerably thinner surface (sometimes the bristles can be set this way to the outer surface of a plastic bottle).

Brushes for cleaning

Brushes used for cleaning come in various sizes, such as very small brushes for cleaning a fine instrument, toothbrushes, the household version that usually comes with a dustpan, or the broomstick. Hallbrooms are even larger and are used for cleaning large areas. Cleaning brushes also include brushes for cleaning vegetables, cleaning the toilet, washing glass, finishing tiles, and sanding doors.


Paintbrushes are used for applying ink or paint. These are usually made by clamping the bristles to a handle with a ferrule.
Short handled brushes are for watercolor or ink painting while the long handled brushes are for oil or acrylic paint. The styles of brush tip seen most commonly are:
  • Round: Long closely arranged bristles for detail
  • Flat: For spreading paint quickly and evenly over a surface. They will have longer hairs than their Bright counterpart.
  • Bright: Flat brushes with short stiff bristles, good for driving paint into the weave of a canvas in thinner paint applications, as well as thicker painting styles like impasto work.
  • Filbert: Flat brushes with domed ends. They allow good coverage and the ability to perform some detail work.
  • Fan: For blending broad areas of paint.
  • Angle: Like the Filbert, these are versatile and can be applied in both general painting application as well as some detail work.
  • Mop: A larger format brush with a rounded edge for broad soft paint application as well as for getting thinner glazes over existing drying layers of paint without damaging lower layers.
  • Rigger: Round brushes with longish hairs, traditionally used for painting the rigging in pictures of ships. They are useful for fine lines and are versatile for both oils and watercolors.
Some other styles of brush include:
  • Sumi: Similar in style to certain watercolor brushes, with a generally thick wooden or bamboo handle and a broad soft hair brush that when wetted should form a fine tip.
  • Hake: An Asian style of brush with a large broad wooden handle and an extremely fine soft hair used in counterpoint to traditional Sumi brushes for covering large areas. Often made of goat hair.
  • Spotter: Round brushes with just a few short bristles. These brushes are commonly used in spotting photographic prints.

Brush care

  • A natural/artificial hair brush utilized in one medium (oil paint, acrylic, watercolor, etc.) should not be used again in a different medium, unless the nature of each medium and accompanying solvent affects the hairs of the brushes differently. Using brushes across mediums can cause them to age prematurely. This information does not apply to synthetic hair brushes.
  • Paint and solvent residue should be cleaned from brushes after use. After removing most of the paint from the bristles manually with an appropriate solvent, detergent and water should be used to clean the brush further. After a thorough cleaning, natural hair brushes benefit from using a brush conditioner on the hairs to restore oils. A conditioner can be worked into the bristles which can then be shaped to a point and left to dry. Before the next painting session, the conditioner should be removed with water.
  • Brushes should not be left bristle-end down in solvent for a prolonged period. Doing so will cause distress to the brush shape and may cause the bristles to splay out and lose their shape. Methods of suspending brushes in solvent include a metal spring, a mesh or a clamp. These grip brush handles and do not allow the bristles of the brush to touch the bottom of the solvent container. Also, leaving brushes in solvent for a prolonged period can cause damage to the bristles themselves by stripping oils and swelling, to the ferrule, to the adhesive used to hold bristles in place, and to the wooden handle.
  • An environmentally friendly way of removing oil paint from brushes while paint is wet is to immerse the brush in a container containing vegetable oil. The oil will naturally cleanse away the oil paint.

Sizes and materials

Decorators' brushes

The sizes of brushes used for painting and decorating is given in mm or inches, referring to the width of the head.
Common sizes are:
  • ⅛ in, ¼ in, ⅜ in, ½ in, ⅝ in, ¾ in, ⅞ in, 1 in, 1¼ in, 1½ in, 2 in, 2½ in, 3 in, 3½ in, 4 in.
  • 10 mm, 20 mm, 30 mm, 40 mm, 50 mm, 60 mm, 70 mm, 80 mm, 90 mm, 100 mm.
Bristles may be natural or synthetic. Natural bristles are preferred for oil-based paints and varnishes, while synthetic brushes are better for water-based paints as the bristles do not expand when wetted.
Handles may be wood or plastic; ferrules are metal (usually nickel-plated steel).

Artists' brushes

Artists' brushes are usually given numbered sizes, although there is no exact standard for their physical dimensions.
From smallest to largest, the sizes are:
  • 10/0, 7/0 (also written 0000000), 6/0, 5/0, 4/0, 000, 00, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30. Brushes as fine as 30/0 are manufactured by major companies, but are not a common size.
Sizes 000 to 20 are most common.
Artists' brushes are most commonly categorized by type and by shape.
Types include: watercolor brushes which are usually made of sable, synthetic sable or nylon; oil painting brushes which are usually made of sable or bristle; and acrylic brushes which are almost entirely nylon or synthetic. Turpentine or thinners used in oil painting can destroy some types of synthetic brushes. However, innovations in synthetic bristle technology have produced solvent resistant synthetic bristles suitable for use in all mediums. Natural hair, squirrel, badger or sable are used by watercolorists due to their superior ability to absorb and hold water.
Shapes include rounds (pointed), flats, brights (shorter than flats) and filbert. Other shapes include stipplers (short, stubby rounds), deer-foot stipplers, liners (elongated rounds), daggers, scripts (highly elongated rounds), egberts and fans.
Bristles may be natural — either soft hair or hog bristle — or synthetic.
  • Soft hair brushes are made from Kolinsky sable or ox hair (sabeline); or more rarely, squirrel, pony, goat, mongoose or badger. Cheaper hair is sometimes called camel hair, although it does not come from camels.
  • Hog bristle (often called china bristle or Chunking bristle) is stiffer and stronger than soft hair. It may be bleached or unbleached.
  • Synthetic bristles are made of special multi-diameter extruded nylon filament.
Artists' brush handles are commonly wooden but can also be made of molded plastic. Many mass-produced handles are made of unfinished raw wood; better quality handles are of seasoned hardwood. The wood is sealed and lacquered to give the handle a high-gloss, waterproof finish that reduces soiling and swelling.
Metal ferrules may be of aluminum, nickel, copper, or nickel-plated steel. Quill ferrules are also found: these give a different "feel" to the brush. The top of the range brushes, however, usually have ferrules made from transparent plastic tightened in place by thin wire.
brush in German: Pinsel
brush in Esperanto: Broso
brush in Esperanto: Peniko
brush in Spanish: Pincel
brush in Spanish: cepillo
brush in Spanish: Brocha
brush in Persian: قلم‌مو
brush in French: Pinceau
brush in Hebrew: מברשת
brush in Dutch: Penseel
brush in Dutch: Kwast (gereedschap)
brush in Dutch: Borstel
brush in Japanese: 筆
brush in Norwegian: Pensel
brush in Polish: Pędzel
brush in Portuguese: Pincel
brush in Finnish: Pensseli
brush in Swedish: Pensel

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Arabia Deserta, Death Valley, Sahara, action, aerial combat, affray, air brush, air-dry, anhydrate, armored combat, art paper, attouchement, back country, backlog, backwoods, bake, ball the jack, barrel, barren, barren land, barrens, battle, battle royal, bavin, beak, bed, bed down, besom, blot, boom, boondock, boondocks, borderland, boscage, bowl along, bracken, brake, break, breath, breeze, breeze along, bridle, broom, brush, brush by, brush off, brush-off, brushwood, bullfight, bump, bunt, burn, bush, bush country, bushveld, camera lucida, camera obscura, canvas, caress, cauda, caudal appendage, caudation, chalk, charcoal, chuck, clash, clash of arms, clean, clip, cockfight, collide, combat, come in contact, con, conflict, contact, contingence, copse, crayon, cue, cure, curry, currycomb, cut along, cutaneous sense, dab, dehumidify, dehydrate, desert, desiccate, desolation, dismiss, disregard, dock, dogfight, drain, drawing paper, drawing pencil, drench, drier, dry, dust bowl, easel, embroilment, encounter, engagement, evaporate, exchange of blows, exsiccate, fagot, fantail, feed, feel, feeling, fight, fillip, fingertip caress, fire, fire fight, firewood, fixative, fleet, flick, flip, flirt, flit, fly, fly low, fodder, foot, forests, fray, frontier, gather, gentle, glance, go fast, go over, graze, groom, ground, ground combat, grove, hairbrush, hand-mindedness, hand-to-hand combat, hand-to-hand fight, handle, harness, heath, highball, hinterland, hit, hitch, house-to-house combat, howling wilderness, ignore, impinge, impingement, impingence, insolate, karroo, kiln, kindling, kindlings, kiss, lambency, lap, lay figure, lick, light touch, litter, log, lunar landscape, lunar waste, make knots, manage, maulstick, medium, melee, milk, mummify, naval combat, nip, nudge, osculate, osculation, outback, outpost, outstrip the wind, paint, paintbrush, palette, palette knife, parch, passage of arms, pastel, pat, peck, pencil, pick, pigments, pigtail, pile, pitched battle, pour it on, put aside, quarrel, queue, rap, rattail, rebuff, refresh, restudy, review, rip, rub, rub down, rumble, run-in, running fight, saddle, salt flat, scorch, scramble, scrape, scratchboard, scrimmage, scrub, scrubwood, scuffle, sear, sense of touch, set-to, shave, shoving match, shrivel, shrubwood, shrug off, siccative, sideswipe, sizzle, sketchbook, sketchpad, skim, skirmish, skirt, smoke, snap, soak up, spatula, speed, sponge, spray gun, squeak by, stand-up fight, storm along, stovewood, street fight, stroke, struggle, stub, study, stump, sun, sun-dry, swab, sweep, sweep out, sweep up, tactile sense, taction, tail, tailpiece, tame, tangency, tap, tauromachy, tear, tear along, tend, tentative contact, tentative poke, the bush, thicket, thunder along, tickle, timbers, tip, toothbrush, torrefy, touch, touch lightly, touch upon, touching, towel, train, tug-of-war, tussle, underbrush, undergrowth, underwood, uninhabited region, up-country, vacuum, vacuum-clean, varnish, virgin land, virgin territory, waste, wasteland, water, weary waste, weazen, whisk, whisper, whiz, wild, wild West, wilderness, wilds, wipe, wither, wizen, wood, woodlands, woods, yoke, yule clog, yule log, zing, zip, zoom
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