Reference > Brewer’s Dictionary > Brown Bess

 Brown, Jones, and Robinson.Brown Bill. 
E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Brown Bess
means brown barrel. The barrels were browned to keep them from rusting. (Dutch, bus, a gun-barrel; Low German, büsse; Swedish, byssa. Our arquebus, blunderbuss.) In 1808 a process of browning was introduced, but this has, of course, nothing to do with the distinctive epithet. Probably Bess is a companion word to Bill. (See below.)   1

 Brown, Jones, and Robinson.Brown Bill. 


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