- Praise or appreciation, usually for a service someone has done.
- Credit for a good deed.
- Imaginary credit for doing something well.
- Earned credits towards one’s good standing.
- Good marks for credit.
- He picked up some brownie points with his manager by doing part of her report for her.
- By cleaning up the sidewalks, Mark earned brownie points in the eyes of the whole neighbourhood.
- I’m not going to put myself through that much trouble just to pick up a few brownie points in the office.
- Janet earned some brownie points in the PTA by volunteering to head up the next fundraising drive.
- You’re not going to get many brownie points for submitting a report like this.
There are actually several possible origins thought of for this phrase. The most common one is that it first referred to the younger version of the Girl Scouts, the “Brownies,” who received points (6) and merit badges for doing good deeds. Of the possible origins for the phrase, this one comes closest to the concept of actually earning points for doing a good deed or service for someone.
Other popular possible origins link it to the brown ration stamps used to purchase food during World War II (which worked on a point system), to a New York railway superintendent named George Brown, who had a point system of merits and demerits for his underlings, to trading stamps (many of which were brown) that were once given out for grocery purchases at the register and which could be redeemed for merchandise, and to a magazine company, Curtis Publishing, that rewarded its mostly young boy sales force for meeting sales targets with green and brown points that could be redeemed for merchandise from a company catalog. However, the connection with the younger Girl Scouts appears to be the one that is most widely accepted.
The phrase first seems to have turned up, possibly in schoolyards, from where it spread, in the 1940s, with one of the earliest recorded versions of it being recorded in 1942.