What does the idiom "put on a brave face" mean?

Are you using the idiom put on a brave face but not sure about its meaning? Using idioms, which are important elements of spoken and written language, in the right place strengthens your language skills. Examine the meaning of the put on a brave face idiom and the situations in which it is used.

Meaning of "put on a brave face"


The idiom "put on a brave face" means to put on a strong front, to show emotional strength in the face of difficult or trying times. It refers to appearing calm and collected, though one may be feeling the opposite inside. The individual puts on a brave face to symbolise that they will not be intimidated by a situation or difficult emotions. Through this expression, a person is attempting to gain control of a situation or to cope with the situation in the best way possible.


The phrase "put on a brave face" first appeared in print in 1739 as a phrase in John Gauden’s book, “Ecclesiastical and Other Poems”. The expression is believed to stem from an age-old need to appear strong, particularly in the face of adversity or challenging times. It was important for individuals to show strength, both to themselves and those around them, during times of uncertainty.


The phrase "put on a brave face" is used in all levels of English conversation. It is used to refer to a person's state of mind during a difficult, emotionally straining situation, such as the death of a loved one, a job loss, a major exam. It is also used to refer to situations in which a person must remain composed or collected in the face of a difficult or hostile environment. It is often used metaphorically to refer to putting on a false show of strength or courage when in fact the person is anything but strong.

Example Sentences

  • The divorce was hard on her, but she put on a brave face to get through it.
  • The young soldier put on a brave face as he headed off to battle.
  • Although she was scared, Rose put on a brave face and went inside the haunted house.

The meanings of the words in the "put on a brave face" idiom

The Surprising Origins of Everyday English Idioms

Many English idioms have surprisingly dark origins, often rooted in violence, death, and superstition. For instance, the phrase "raining cats and dogs" is said to have originated in the 17th century, when heavy rain would often cause dead animals to wash up on the streets. Meanwhile, the idiom "rule of thumb" is believed to have originated from a law that allowed men to beat their wives with a stick no thicker than their thumb.


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