What Does Brush It Off Mean?

Brush It Off Meaning

Definition: To ignore or dismiss someone.

If you brush someone off, you are ignoring that person. The person is trying to gain your attention in some way, but for your own reasons, be they polite or rude, you will not show the person any attention.

You can imagine the act of brushing dirt off your shirt when thinking of this idiom. If you were to wipe off a speck or dust or dirt, you would lightly swipe it away from your shoulder and then cease to think about it.

Similarly, if you were to brush someone off, you would be pushing the person away and then not think any further about him or her.

Origin of To Brush It Off

brush off meaningAccording to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, this phrase (brush off) was first used around the year 1820, but it apparently became common in the 1930s. It seems to have evolved from the phrase give someone the air, which is rarely used now. If you give someone the air, you are ignoring the person or telling him or her to go away.

To brush someone off comes from the act of brushing away crumbs or dirt. In this sense, a person who is brushed off, or ignored, is treated just like leftover crumbs.

Examples of To Brush It Off

brush of meaningAfter hearing nothing back from a first date, a man might say,

  • I am furious that she brushed me off! I thought the date had gone so well, too.

He has been ignored and left behind by his date.

People are likely to feel angry or frustrated when others brush them off. If a journalist is interviewing a celebrity, and the celebrity continually checks his phone and forgets the questions that were just asked, the journalist may complain later that the flippant celebrity just brushed everyone off.

If an idea is not important to you, you may brush it off and ignore it.

More Examples

  • But I was able to brush it off as days went by because it felt like an isolated incident. –Chicago Tribune
  • Most of us brush them off, move on with our lives. –LA Times


To brush something off is to ignore it or quickly move past it.