bur·​nish | \ˈbər-nish \
burnished; burnishing; burnishes

Definition of burnish 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to make shiny or lustrous especially by rubbing burnish leather burnishing his sword

b : polish sense 3 attempting to burnish her image

2 : to rub (a material) with a tool for compacting or smoothing or for turning an edge pottery with a smooth burnished surface



Definition of burnish (Entry 2 of 2)

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Other Words from burnish


burnisher noun
burnishing adjective or noun

Synonyms for burnish

Synonyms: Verb

buff, dress, furbish, gloss, grind, polish, rub, shine, smooth, smoothen

Synonyms: Noun

gloss, luminance, luster (or lustre), polish, sheen, shine

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Examples of burnish in a Sentence


burnished the floor of the ballroom to a soft luster


after some much-needed polishing, the silver tea set had a brilliant burnish

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Caruana is trying to become the first American champion since Bobby Fischer in 1972, while Carlsen is hoping to burnish his legacy as one of the game’s all-time greats. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "A Black Eye, a Controversial Leak and Possible Armageddon—the Madness of the World Chess Championship," 27 Nov. 2018 Every afternoon, Network’s activists gather after work or university classes to brainstorm politics, propaganda, street art and social media to burnish Putin’s image in the eyes of Russia’s young as the president of cool. Anna Nemtsova, Newsweek, "Putin Youth: The Young Russians Who See the President as a Father," 24 Nov. 2014 He is widely seen as an honest man of the people, rare for a leader in a country where the political class is scorned as corrupt and aloof, and his push for infrastructure and cutting red tape has burnished his image as a hands-on leader. The Christian Science Monitor, "Indonesian elections hint at rise of political Islam in the secular country," 26 June 2018 Models' burnished complexions evoked her legendary souvenir from the summer of 1923: A golden glow that inspired legions of sunbathers and later sparked the first-of-its-kind body oil, L'Huile Tan. Zoe Ruffner, Vogue, "5 Self-Tanning Mists for Your Best Summer Glow Yet," 25 June 2018 In addition, England also had one of the world’s finest managers in Fabio Capello; a coach whose CV was burnished with gold. SI.com, "World Cup Countdown: 10 Days to Go - What if Frank Lampard’s ‘Goal’ Had Counted in 2010?," 4 June 2018 McMahon has several externally emotional beats that also feel more like burnishing his own legend without worrying quite as much about Andre. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Andre the Giant': TV Review," 9 Apr. 2018 The youth and inexperience that was supposed to plague the Spartans in 2017 has quickly become seasoned and strong, burnished by hard fought wins at Michigan and home against Penn State. Jamie Samuelsen, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan football or Michigan State, who is better? It's an easy call," 10 July 2018 Rubio's national profile, burnished by his presidential run in 2016, has made him a higher target for criticism, said Ornstein. Ledyard King, USA TODAY, "Sen. Marco Rubio's comments on GOP tax cuts draw accusations of inconsistency," 16 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Perhaps the open roasting caused the sugar to caramelize, adding a slightly bitter burnish that mitigated the awful sweetness. Mimi Sheraton, The Seattle Times, "Sweet sorrow: A food critic wants maple syrup to die," 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, "You don’t need romaine lettuce to make a great chopped salad | Charlotte Observer," 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, "In Mexico City, a Beacon of Luxury Shines Brighter," 7 Apr. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'burnish.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of burnish


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


1646, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for burnish


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


see burnish entry 1

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Statistics for burnish

Last Updated

5 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for burnish

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

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More Definitions for burnish



English Language Learners Definition of burnish

: to make (something, such as metal or leather) smooth and shiny by rubbing it


bur·​nish | \ˈbər-nish \
burnished; burnishing

Kids Definition of burnish

: to make shiny

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More from Merriam-Webster on burnish

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with burnish

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for burnish

Spanish Central: Translation of burnish

Nglish: Translation of burnish for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of burnish for Arabic Speakers

Comments on burnish

What made you want to look up burnish? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

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