• brat •
Pronunciation: bræt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. (Offensive) A mischievous child, a little rascal, a guttersnipe. 2. A rag or apron in some dialects.
Notes: Because of its questionable origin (see Word History), today's Good Word has few lexical relatives. It has an adjective, brattish "like a brat", and an abstract noun that expresses the quality of a brat, brattishness. It is an offensive word, especially to the child at whom it is directed, so take care in using it.
In Play: Since today's word is offensive, it is usually used in anger: "Which little brat spilled syrup on the remote control?!" This word may be used more mildly to refer to children who are simply making noise or otherwise misbehaving: "I can't get anything done with these little brats running around!"
Word History: This word has had a variety of senses over the centuries—if the meanings are all associated with the same word. Today's Good Word is thought to be related to the British dialectal expression meaning "a coarse or ragged garment", as in Old English (Northumbrian) bratt "cloak". This then would connect the original sense to the old sense of today's word, "beggar's child". Bratt was taken from Celtic: Old Irish bratt "cloak, cloth", Scots Gaelic brat "apron", or Welsh brat "pinafore, rag". In any case, the meaning would seem to have migrated from "child in a brat" to simply "brat". (James Thompson, who, I am sure, was never a brat himself, suggested today's Good Word.)