ap·​ple-pol·​ish ˈa-pəl-ˌpä-lish How to pronounce apple-polish (audio)
apple-polished; apple-polishing; apple-polishes

intransitive verb

: to attempt to ingratiate oneself : toady

transitive verb

: to curry favor with (as by flattery)
apple-polisher noun

Did you know?

It began innocently enough: a shiny apple for the teacher, a young student's gift (OK, bribe) given in the hope that classroom high jinks would be forgotten or forgiven. The college students of the 1920s tried a more sophisticated version of the trick, polishing professorial egos with compliments in the hopes of getting a better grade. Because of its similarity to the "apple for the teacher" practice, college students dubbed that grade-enhancement strategy apple-polishing. But the idea quickly lost its luster and by 1935 the verb apple-polish had picked up negative connotations. Nowadays, the apple-polisher (academic or otherwise) is viewed in the same much-maligned class as the toady, sycophant, and bootlicker.

Examples of apple-polish in a Sentence

a departmental supervisor who apple-polishes shamelessly whenever higher-ups are about

Word History


from the traditional practice of schoolchildren bringing a shiny apple as a gift to their teacher

First Known Use

1926, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of apple-polish was in 1926


Dictionary Entries Near apple-polish

Cite this Entry

“Apple-polish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 May. 2024.

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