What Does Brush Up Meaning?

Brush Up Meaning

Definition: To review information about something by studying it or practicing it again.

Origin of Brush Up

This expression originated in the 1800s. Brush up goes back all the way to the 1600s and simply means to clean up. It is possible that the two expressions are related.

Imagine that your brain is a storeroom and all the information that you have ever learned is packed away in there. The information that you use frequently is clean. However, the information that you learned a long time ago, and never needed to use, is covered in dust and cobwebs. To access that information again, you’ll have to brush off the dust first.

The addition of the word on to the idiom may have come from the similar expression read up on, which also originated in the 1800s.

Examples of Brush Up

brush up on definitionIn this conversation, a mother and daughter are relaxing at home when the daughter rips her pants.

Daughter: Ouch!

Mother: What happened?

Daughter: I’m fine. I just ripped my pants on this nail coming out of the floorboards.

Mother: Oh, no. It doesn’t look that bad. I think we can fix it.

Daughter: Should we use the sewing machine?

Mother: I suppose so. I’ll have to brush up on my sewing skills. I haven’t had to sew anything for about 20 years.

brushed upIn this example, two co-workers are discussing how they try to help their children with their homework.

Dave: I am so tired today. I was up until midnight last night trying to help my son with his history homework.

Ben: I know. It was easy to help my kids when they were younger, but now that they are in high school, I find that I often don’t remember the information they need for their schoolwork.

Dave: Last night, I spent a few hours brushing up on my American history. I thought I’d never need to think about that again after I graduated high school and started majoring in engineering!

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article about how to keep your pets safe while swimming or around water.

  • May is National Water Safety Month, and with summer just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to brush up on water safety for everyone in your family, including your four-legged kids. –New York Daily News

This excerpt is from an article about how to travel politely and efficiently with your baggage.

  • What better time to brush up on your luggage etiquette and learn a defensive maneuver or two? –Chicago Tribune


The phrase to brush up on something is another way to say to improve one’s skills in something by reviewing it.