bur·​nish | \ ˈbər-nish How to pronounce burnish (audio) \
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

Synonyms: 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: Verb Sensing an opportunity, Senate Republicans mired in touchy reelection campaigns are burnishing their anti-China bona fides and moving to tar Democrats as too cozy with the Chinese Communist Party. David M. Drucker, Washington Examiner, "Republicans launch drive to cast Democrats as China appeasers," 18 May 2020 Whitmer’s outspokenness – and her frequent national media appearances – have burnished her image among Democrats and fueled speculation that former Vice President Joe Biden may choose her as his running mate. Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY, "'A no-win situation': Swing state governors on political tightrope amid coronavirus, Trump pressure," 23 Apr. 2020 Serve burnished sweet potato halves atop a swipe of garlicky toum, top them off with a drizzle of salty-tart ponzu sauce, or finish off the bottle of vinaigrette in your fridge door. Aliza Abarbanel, Bon Appétit, "5 Ways to Zhuzh Up the Sweet Potatoes in Your Pantry," 3 Apr. 2020 Aware that the Nazis had used the 1936 Berlin Games to promote their political agenda, the I.O.C. warned Japan not to use the Tokyo Games to burnish their nationalist ideology. Ken Belson, New York Times, "When the Tokyo Olympics Went Missing," 2 Apr. 2020 The robust labor report only burnished an extended jobs boom that President Donald Trump often touted as proof his economic policies were working. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, "U.S. could lose 14 million jobs: Are we careening toward a depression?," 25 Mar. 2020 Chinese President Xi Jinping used the forum to burnish his nation's image at a time when the United States was questioning its own role as the custodian of the international order. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, "Will Trump become a Davos Man?," 22 Jan. 2018 So the unprecedented mostly-by-mail vote that concluded Tuesday presumably merely burnishes the crown of former Vice President Joe Biden as the Democrats’ presumptive nominee. Darrel Rowland, Cincinnati.com, "How the storyline of Ohio’s primary election changed drastically in just six weeks," 29 Apr. 2020 In theory at least, President Xi Jinping could further re-burnish his post-crisis international image by prioritizing lower-carbon technologies in his drive to get the economy growing again. Ned Temko, The Christian Science Monitor, "COVID-19 and the (possibly) changing climate debate," 22 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The dark burnish brings deep savory notes, but even a hint of burn will make the whole mole bitter. Los Angeles Times, "Figs make this mole recipe uniquely Los Angeles," 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, "Why Is Cheddar Cheese Orange Sometimes?," 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, "Talkin’ ’Bout a Revolution," 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, "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

Verb and Noun

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

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Time Traveler for burnish

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for burnish

Last Updated

22 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Burnish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/burnish. Accessed 1 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for burnish


How to pronounce burnish (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of burnish

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


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

Kids Definition of burnish

: to make shiny

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More from Merriam-Webster on burnish

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for burnish

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with burnish

Spanish Central: Translation of burnish

Nglish: Translation of burnish for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of burnish for Arabic Speakers

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