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I was listening to Dire Straits and wondered what "brothers in arms" are...

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Also brother of arms and brother at arms. –  GEdgar Mar 25 '13 at 21:19

7 Answers 7

up vote 26 down vote accepted

Brothers in arms are soldiers fighting on the same side of some conflict.

Here, brothers is not used literally but to mean "ally" or "comrade". The in arms part refers to the fact that they are soldiers, arms meaning "weaponry".

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Why does arms mean "weaponry"? –  Pacerier Mar 23 at 15:21
    
Arms is a shortened form of the word armaments, which is simply a synonym for weapon. Since English has both French and German roots, weapon comes from German whereas armament comes from French. –  Ratz Mar 25 at 14:37

It's referring to fellow combatants or soldiers.

Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
I've witnessed your suffering
As the battles raged higher
And though they hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms

It is ostensibly a song about camaraderie in war, but it could be metaphorical (as is so often the case with songs and poetry)

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It means fellow soldiers.

Maybe not always in a military sense, but since soldiers have to rely on their colleagues, it can mean someone you trust in any situation where there is opposition.

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Brothers-in-arms simply means comrades or comrades-in-arms. -In-arms is synonymous with in battle, at war, etc... (literally or figuratively). By and large, the term evokes solidarity, especially in a struggle.

comrade (noun)NOAD

a companion who shares one's activities or is a fellow member of an organization.

  • (also comrade-in-arms)a fellow soldier or serviceman.
  • a fellow socialist or communist (often as a form of address).
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No answer to this question can possibly be complete without a reference to Shakespeare's St. Crispins's Day speech by Henry V (my emphasis):

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

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You are all leaving out the intentional nuance of increased trust and bonding.

Comrades in arms are one level, but Brothers in arms are a much greater level of trust and confidence. These nuances are important.

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Brothers in arms does not refer only to soldiers on the same side. It refers to all of the combatants as the line "We are fools to make war on our brothers in arms" points out.

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1  
There is historical evidence that agrees with this, but you should provide the reference along with your answer. Where did that quote come from. –  Canis Lupus Nov 9 '13 at 1:37
    
Always check your sentences for proper capitalization, spelling, punctuation, grammar and style before posting the answer. –  Kris Nov 9 '13 at 11:02

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