var·​nish | \ ˈvär-nish How to pronounce varnish (audio) \

Definition of varnish

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a liquid preparation that when applied to a surface dries to form a hard lustrous typically transparent coating
b : the covering or glaze given by the application of varnish
c(1) : something that suggests varnish by its gloss
(2) : a coating (as of deposits in an internal combustion engine) comparable to varnish
2 : outside show : gloss entry 1
3 chiefly British : a liquid nail polish


varnished; varnishing; varnishes

Definition of varnish (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to apply varnish to
2 : to cover or conceal (something, such as something unpleasant) with something that gives an attractive appearance : gloss entry 2

Other Words from varnish


varnishy \ ˈvär-​ni-​shē How to pronounce varnish (audio) \ adjective


varnisher \ ˈvär-​ni-​shər How to pronounce varnish (audio) \ noun

Examples of varnish in a Sentence

Noun She accidentally scratched the varnish.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Old varnish needed to be stripped away; misguided restorers seeking to improve the masterwork a century earlier had painted over many icons. Joshua Hammer, Smithsonian Magazine, 5 May 2022 Plus, all of the materials have been coated with weather-proofing varnish to protect it from getting moldy, faded, or rotten. Samantha Jones, Better Homes & Gardens, 1 Apr. 2022 Chabrel says the signature racket includes a glossy paint varnish, a high-end paint commonly seen on the tour, but not typically at retail. Tim Newcomb, Forbes, 18 Mar. 2022 Dental sealants and fluoride varnish are a safe and painless way to help prevent cavities. Laura Groch, San Diego Union-Tribune, 13 Feb. 2022 Religious practice is simultaneously at the heart of this book and a surface phenomenon: in the West, a pious varnish on imperialist prejudices, or in the East, a state of false consciousness that blinds believers to their own subjugation. Washington Post, 28 Jan. 2022 The varnish on the cabinets above the stove began bubbling. Washington Post, 28 Nov. 2021 But even though Chastain has clearly studied Tammy Faye’s mannerisms and vocal tics and runs through them admirably, the movie’s candy-colored varnish seems to have waterproofed it against anything so messy as real feeling—or judicious assessment. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, 17 Sep. 2021 The final stage involves gluing, sanding and applying a protective varnish. Carol Besler, Robb Report, 23 Aug. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Adding this same paint varnish on the retail version ensures every detail is the same as Swiatek's. Tim Newcomb, Forbes, 18 Mar. 2022 As such, people could use it as a paint or varnish to protect things. Joshua Hawkins, BGR, 9 Feb. 2022 Football is an intoxicatingly popular product, with a lot of parties benefitting from the largesse, and more than happy to varnish the sport’s reputation. Jason Gay, WSJ, 14 Oct. 2021 What Remains Behind—directed by Laurent Bouzereau—is a respectful, though not necessarily varnished, look at what made Wood one of the most dazzling actors of the last half of the 20th century. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, 5 May 2020 The kitchen is unusual in that its counters are not new marble or quartz, but varnished walnut, which matches the floor. Judy Rose, Detroit Free Press, 22 Feb. 2020 The playwright, who quickly has become famous, is himself an outspoken personality, a writer and walking fashion statement, a playwright thoroughly disinclined to varnish anything with the veneer of acceptability. Chris Jones,, 13 Sep. 2019 There’s no time required for sanding, staining or varnishing. Joesph Truini, Popular Mechanics, 8 Dec. 2019 The backs of the boxes are varnished, but covered with grease, sauce and cheese underneath. Taylor Hartz,, 6 Nov. 2019 See More

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

First Known Use of varnish


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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for varnish


Middle English vernyz, vernich, vernisch "dissolved resin used as a decorative or protective coating," borrowed from Anglo-French vernis (continental Old French verniz), borrowed from Medieval Latin veronix, vernix "resin," earlier "amber," restructured from Middle Greek berōnikón, beroníkē "yellow- or amber-colored glass, amber," probably going back to Greek bereníkion "natron, reddish- or yellowish-hued natron (used in making glass)," of uncertain origin

Note: The Greek word for "natron" has no evident connection with the city name Bereníkē in ancient Cyrenaica nor any of the other place-names based on the female given name Bereníkē borne by various Macedonian queens and princesses of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt.


Middle English vernysshen, borrowed from Middle French vernicier and Medieval Latin vernizāre, both derivative of Old French verniz varnish entry 1

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Time Traveler for varnish

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

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varnished willow

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Last Updated

8 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Varnish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for varnish


var·​nish | \ ˈvär-nish How to pronounce varnish (audio) \

Kids Definition of varnish

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a liquid that is spread on a surface and dries into a hard coating


varnished; varnishing

Kids Definition of varnish (Entry 2 of 2)

: to cover with or as if with a liquid that dries into a hard coating


var·​nish | \ ˈvär-nish How to pronounce varnish (audio) \

Medical Definition of varnish

: any of various liquid preparations that when spread and allowed to dry on a surface form a hard lustrous typically transparent coating and that include some used in dentistry to line deep cavities in order to protect the pulp of a tooth

Other Words from varnish

varnish transitive verb


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