1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bravo

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BRAVO (Ital. for “brave”), the name for hired assassins such as were formerly common in Italy. The word had at first no evil meaning, but was applied to the retainers of the great noble houses, or to the cavalier-type of swashbucklers familiar in fiction. In later Italian history, especially in that of Venice, the bravi were desperate ruffians who for payment were ready to commit any crime, however foul.