Origin of the word
The Greek word ‘brakhion’ meaning ‘an arm’ supplied the Latin ‘bracchia’, the plural of ‘bracchium’, with the same meaning. In the 12th century, the French word ‘bras’ indicated ‘power’ as well as ‘arm’, while ‘brasse’ means ‘breaststroke, armful, fathom’. In Old French, ‘brace’ was used for ‘arms’ as well as the length ‘measured by two arms’. By the early part of the 14th century, the noun had come to mean ‘armour for the arms’ as well as a ‘strap or thong for fastening’.
Brace came to mean ‘a pair, two’ from about 1400 and was applied to pistols, pheasants, dogs, etc. Architecture adopted the word to mean ‘a support or prop’ in the 1520s, while the concept of holding or binding ‘two or more things closely together’ emerged in the middle of the 15th century. By 1798, brace was applied to support for men’s trousers, specifically ‘two straps passing over the shoulders’. In 1945, braces was in use for wires to straighten teeth.
The verb brace seems to have derived from another French root, namely ‘bracier’ as in ‘to embrace’. In the middle of the 14th century, this also meant ‘to grasp or hold firmly’ and a century later it was used for getting ready to hold firmly, in the sense of ‘steadying [oneself] by tensing’. Strengthening or tensing was also applied in the early part of the 15th century to brace in the sense of ‘preparing for a shock’ and related words such as ‘bracer’ referring to a stiff drink came into use.
Related words: bracing, braces
“British businesses brace for darker days as shoppers run out of cash.” The Telegraph. 14 August 2017.
“With enrolment for 2018 Affordable Care Act health-insurance plans starting in just two weeks, insurers are bracing for a drop-off among consumers put off by higher rates, confusion about the law’s standing and a shorter window to choose coverage.” Wall Street Journal. 18th August 2017: Amid ACA turmoil, insurers brace for drop in enrolment.
1. to get ready for something unpleasant
2. to push your body, or a part of it, against something solid and strong in order to support yourself or to avoid falling
3. to make your body, or a part of it, stiff and strong in order to do something that needs a lot of effort
4. to support an object with a piece of wood, metal etc. so that it does not fall down