Green’s Dictionary of Slang

brass n.1

1. as a metal used in coins.

(a) [16C+] (also brassey) money; esp. as in the UK northern phr. where there’s muck there’s brass and similar homilies.

(b) [20C+] (W.I.) a penny.

(c) [1920s] genuine jewellery.

(d) [1920s–60s] (US Und.) a fake ‘gold’ ring.

(e) [1970s] (US prison) currency used in jail.

2. [late 17C+] audacity, gall, cheek [the image of SE brass as a measure of hardness and thus insensibility].

3. as a superior figure, usu. in an institution [brass hat under brass adj.1 ].

(a) [late 19C+] a senior officer in the police, a prison, or armed services; also attrib.

(b) [1940s+] any variety of senior official, e.g. a politician.

(c) [1950s] a social superior.

4. [1930s+] (US black, also brasses, brassies) brass knuckles.

In compounds

brass man (n.) [1930s+]

1. (Aus.) a confidence trickster.

2. (US Und.) a politician or one who has influence among politicians.

brass peddler (n.)

[1920s–40s] (US tramp) a person who sells imitation gold jewellery.

In phrases

brass along (v.)

[1910s+] to go through life cheerfully, without much regard for the feelings of others.

brass down (v.)

[1900s] to pay money owed.

brass it out (v.)

[19C+] to bluff, bluster or brazen one’s way out of a situation.

brass off (v.)

see separate entry.

brass up (v.)

1. [late 19C+] to hand over money; to pay a debt.

2. [1970s] (W.I., Bdos) to scold, to reprimand.

shove the brass (v.)

[1930s] (US Und.) to peddle fake or cheap jewellery.