The Evolution of Brave


I’m sure many of you have seen—or at least heard about—the sans makeup selfie craze that is currently sweeping social media. The idea is to post a self-portrait in which you are not wearing any makeup. In theory, this is supposed to raise awareness for cancer. The good news is that it has resulted in a noticeable increase in donations for various cancer research organizations. The bad news is that it suggests not wearing makeup is brave. I take issue with this for two reasons. One: having cancer is not even remotely similar to not wearing makeup. Two: do we really live in a society that believes a woman who doesn’t wear makeup is doing something brave?

As per usual, this sort of thing makes me wonder about the origins of the words being used. So instead of turning this into a rant about what’s wrong with the world, I thought I’d talk about the word brave.

The modern definition of brave describes someone who is ready to face and endure danger and pain. In other words, someone who demonstrates courage. The word is first seen in English in the late 1400s. It comes from the French word with the same spelling, meaning splendid or valiant, which in turn comes from the Italian word bravo, meaning brave or bold. However, the original meaning of bravo was wild or savage, which likely came from the Medieval Latin word bravus, meaning a cutthroat or a villain. Bravus came from the old Latin pravus, meaning crooked or depraved.

So, just like the word nice, brave’s meaning has evolved considerably from its original roots. Personally, I like the modern meaning better than the original Latin, so maybe we ought to be a bit more judicious in our use of adjectives to describe hopping on bandwagons.


Image credit: Arman Zhenikeyev /

19 thoughts on “The Evolution of Brave

  1. I don’t wear make-up. Ever. Not to make some statement, but because I don’t feel comfortable in it. I’m pretty sure that’s the opposite of bold. But who knew I was being trendy?

  2. For real? I hadn’t heard of this non-makeup selfie thing. Even without the word “Brave” attached to it, i’m not sure how not wearing makeup and cancer correlate but whatever. I rarely wear makeup. Just cuz I don’t have the time and don’t really care. Certainly not because I’m being brave. How ludicrous.

  3. I must live in a cave, because I haven’t heard of this. I hardly think not wearing make up is brave. (I’m with Ranu – I like the modern definition of brave 🙂 )

  4. I loved reading your thoughts on this. I don’t wear makeup…oh, most of the time. I don’t think of it as an act of bravery, but of just being a real human, lol. Who knew?

  5. Same here. I don’t wear make-up because, frankly, why should I? I don’t like it, it takes time, it costs money, etc etc. Not for me.

    And I agree that it is not the bravest thing in the world to not wear make up, but as you hinted at – a sad commentary about women’s perception of themselves. There are definitely better ways to show bravery. However, I am glad that cancer research is benefiting from this ill-conceived meme.

    1. I’m attracted to makeup occasionally, mostly because I’m part magpie and I like sparkly stuff. 😉 But it should be something fun, not something that you attach self-worth to.

      Apparently a number of charities have seen benefits from this craze, so there’s definitely an upside.

  6. I hadn’t heard of this new craze. Now as a young woman who recently tangoed with cancer I am glad for anything that brings money to the fight. Because it is a fight that requires immense strength and bravery. But to imply that showing my face,uncovered, sans makeup is Brave……well it is simply ludicrous.

  7. I don’t wear make up because I’m lazy, bravery doesn’t play a role in that decision at all. I hope this effort truly does help fund cancer research, but on the other hand, I feel like it’s the same as the day everyone was supposed to go braless for breast cancer awareness. It’s trivializing a serious issue by making it appear that anyone who hasn’t gone through cancer can relate by doing marginal acts of attention whoring. That’s just my two cents.

  8. Dude, I love that you went in a different and EDUCATIONAL direction instead of just throwing in your random two cents (which is fine, and the point of having your own blog and I’m not knocking the people who weighed in on the issue – caveat included because people get offended by all sorts of things) Now I have learned something that I found interesting, which is more than I can say for the rest of my number crunching day so far 🙂

    1. You always leave the best comments! Plus you called me dude, which is awesome. I figured if I was going to open my mouth about this issue, I should at least do what I do and turn it into a learning opportunity. Also, I might have developed a bit of a dependency on my etymological dictionary. 😉

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