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bur·​nish ˈbər-nish How to pronounce burnish (audio)
burnished; burnishing; burnishes

transitive verb

: to make shiny or lustrous especially by rubbing
burnish leather
burnishing his sword
: polish sense 3
attempting to burnish her image
: to rub (a material) with a tool for compacting or smoothing or for turning an edge
pottery with a smooth burnished surface
burnisher noun
burnishing adjective or noun


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Examples of burnish in a Sentence

Verb burnished the floor of the ballroom to a soft luster Noun after some much-needed polishing, the silver tea set had a brilliant burnish
Recent Examples on the Web
With Watt burnishing their sound just enough, songs that could have easily been rote feel revitalized. David Browne, Rolling Stone, 9 Oct. 2023 Unlike many great athletes who’ve made lousy coaches, Sanders knows how to marshal his story not to burnish his past but to build a future. Zach Helfand, The New Yorker, 11 Nov. 2023 Even a limited nuclear war between India and Pakistan would kill tens of millions worldwide and cause global famine—but how can the U.S. argue for other nations to disarm while burnishing its own nuclear sword in such a heedless fashion? The Editors, Scientific American, 10 Nov. 2023 The state’s most powerful Democrat, Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, even endorsed Bush for president in 2000, burnishing the Republican’s bipartisan credentials in a way that’s unimaginable in today’s age of impermeable partisanship. Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 10 Nov. 2023 Some media outlets continued to burnish his representation even after FTX crashed and burned. Emma Roth, The Verge, 4 Nov. 2023 Maybe Signature Theatre and director Matthew Gardiner will burnish its reputation further. Chris Richards, Washington Post, 19 Oct. 2023 However, a leading marine biologist the industry once relied on to burnish its environmental credentials has since denounced krill fishing. Joshua Goodman, Fortune, 13 Oct. 2023 Saudi Arabia likely feels the need to burnish its pro-Palestinian credentials. Ghaith Al-Omari, Foreign Affairs, 13 Oct. 2023
In William Faulkner’s Sanctuary, Temple Drake is taken to a brothel by a sinister bootlegger, but our version had no gothic burnish. Matthew Gavin Frank, Harper's Magazine, 21 Aug. 2022 The dark burnish brings deep savory notes, but even a hint of burn will make the whole mole bitter. Los Angeles Times, 10 Jan. 2020 The cream turns into a rich sauce and the cheese gets bubbly-brown; the greens towards the top burnish (kale chips!) but those underneath stay silky-soft. Sarah Jampel, Bon Appétit, 17 Dec. 2019 As each streetlamp passed, the burnish of its reflected light rolled up alongside them on the asphalt, like a dolphin curious about a new boat in her waters, and then veered away. Caleb Crain, Harper's magazine, 22 July 2019 Perhaps the open roasting caused the sugar to caramelize, adding a slightly bitter burnish that mitigated the awful sweetness. Mimi Sheraton, The Seattle Times, 25 Sep. 2018 The reds of radishes and tomatoes, the burnish of crisped bacon and bright greens of beans and hardy lettuces showed through milky dressings that coated each piece. Bonnie S. Benwick, charlotteobserver, 1 May 2018 A renovation, completed in late 2015, with updates this spring and summer to some of its signature restaurants, adds a new burnish to this destination, just as Mexico City itself is becoming a must-go spot, especially for the international jet set. Melena Ryzik, New York Times, 7 Apr. 2017 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'burnish.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Verb and Noun

Middle English burnischen, from Anglo-French burniss-, stem of burnir, alteration of Old French brunir, literally, to make brown, from brun

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1646, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of burnish was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near burnish

Cite this Entry

“Burnish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/burnish. Accessed 11 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


: to make shiny especially by rubbing : polish
burnisher noun

More from Merriam-Webster on burnish

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