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[bur-nish] /ˈbɜr nɪʃ/
verb (used with object)
to polish (a surface) by friction.
to make smooth and bright.
Engraving. to flatten and enlarge the dots of (a halftone) by rubbing with a tool.
gloss; brightness; luster:
the burnish of brass andirons.
Origin of burnish
1275-1325; Middle English burnissh < Anglo-French burniss-, Middle French bruniss- (long stem of burnir, brunir to darken, polish), equivalent to brun- brown + -iss- -ish2
Related forms
burnishable, adjective
burnishment, noun
unburnished, adjective
1. buff, shine. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for burnished
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The floor was scrubbed to whiteness, the very stove was burnished.

    Way of the Lawless Max Brand
  • The reins were of silk, and the chariot shone with burnished gold.

    Imogen William Godwin
  • The moonlight caught her grey hair and burnished it to an aureole of silver.

    Jan and Her Job L. Allen Harker
  • From behind the hills peeped the edge of the moon—a sickle of burnished copper.

    The Sea-Hawk Raphael Sabatini
  • Her hair streaming on her shoulders glinted like burnished gold.

    Tales of Unrest Joseph Conrad
  • She went to the mirror and tucked in a burnished strand or two of hair.

    The Crimson Tide Robert W. Chambers
British Dictionary definitions for burnished


to make or become shiny or smooth by friction; polish
a shiny finish; lustre
Derived Forms
burnishable, adjective
burnisher, noun
Word Origin
C14 burnischen, from Old French brunir to make brown, from brunbrown
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for burnished



early 14c., from Old French burniss- present participle stem of burnir, metathesis of brunir "to shine, gleam, sparkle" (trans.), "to polish, make sparkle, make bright, shine," from brun "brown; polished," from a Germanic source (cf. Old High German brun, Old Norse brunn "bright, polished; brown;" see brown (adj.)). The connection to "brown" might be explained if the original objects in mind were wooden ones. Related: Burnished; burnishing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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