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[pol-ish] /ˈpɒl ɪʃ/
verb (used with object)
to make smooth and glossy, especially by rubbing or friction:
to polish a brass doorknob.
to render finished, refined, or elegant:
His speech needs polishing.
verb (used without object)
to become smooth and glossy through polishing:
a flooring that polishes easily.
Archaic. to become refined or elegant.
a substance used to give smoothness or gloss:
shoe polish.
the act of polishing.
state of being polished.
smoothness and gloss of surface.
superiority of manner or execution; refinement; elegance:
the polish of a professional singer.
Verb phrases
polish off, Informal.
  1. to finish or dispose of quickly:
    They polished off a gallon of ice cream between them.
  2. to subdue or get rid of someone:
    The fighter polished off his opponent in the first round.
polish up, to improve; refine:
She took lessons to polish up her speech.
Origin of polish
1250-1300; Middle English polishen < Middle French poliss-, long stem of polir < Latin polīre to polish; see -ish2
Related forms
polisher, noun
depolish, verb (used with object)
interpolish, verb (used with object)
overpolish, verb (used with object)
prepolish, noun, verb (used with object)
repolish, verb, noun
1. shine, brighten, burnish, buff, smooth. 8. shine, gleam. Polish, gloss, luster, sheen refer to a smooth, shining, or bright surface from which light is reflected. Polish suggests the smooth, bright reflection often produced by friction: rubbed to a high polish. Gloss suggests a superficial, hard smoothness characteristic of lacquered, varnished, or enameled surfaces: a gloss on oilcloth, on paper. Luster denotes the characteristic quality of the light reflected from the surfaces of certain materials (pearls, silk, wax, freshly cut metals, etc.): a pearly luster. Sheen, sometimes poetical, suggests a glistening brightness such as that reflected from the surface of silk or velvet, or from furniture oiled and hand-polished: a rich velvety sheen. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for polish up
Historical Examples
  • If you don't get away and polish up you'll never do a thing worth while.

    Kent Knowles: Quahaug Joseph C. Lincoln
  • The first half you will be able to put more clearly when you polish up.

  • There is nothing to do save to polish up your arms and your equipment.

    Bonnie Prince Charlie G. A. Henty
  • Dear Evadne, you've got to possess your own soul if you're going to polish up ours!

    "Persons Unknown" Virginia Tracy
  • He wanted some of the stones to handle, polish up a bit, and show round.

    The Black Opal

    Katharine Susannah Prichard
  • And he's going to polish up the four-pounder until I can see my face in it.

    Second Plays A. A. Milne
  • I'm just trying to polish up one of the pillars of the new state that you and mamma and Jack are so interested in.

    Mary Ware's Promised Land Annie Fellows Johnston
  • She would go to school only one year, just enough to polish up on social ideas and matters of dress.

    The Wind Before the Dawn Dell H. Munger
  • When we've ad you as long to polish up as we've ad im, perhaps you'll begin to look a little bit up to is mark.

    Man And Superman George Bernard Shaw
  • On deck, the men began to holystone the planks, polish up the brasswork, and make everything shipshape for port.

    A Boy's Voyage Round the World The Son of Samuel Smiles
British Dictionary definitions for polish up

polish up

verb (adverb)
to make or become smooth and shiny by polishing
when intr, foll by on. to study or practise until adept at; improve: polish up your spelling, he's polishing up on his German


to make or become smooth and shiny by rubbing, esp with wax or an abrasive
(transitive) to make perfect or complete
to make or become elegant or refined
a finish or gloss
the act of polishing or the condition of having been polished
a substance used to produce a smooth and shiny, often protective surface
elegance or refinement, esp in style, manner, etc
See also polish off, polish up
Derived Forms
polishable, adjective
polisher, noun
Word Origin
C13 polis, from Old French polir, from Latin polīre to polish


of, relating to, or characteristic of Poland, its people, or their language
the official language of Poland, belonging to the West Slavonic branch of the Indo-European family
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 polish up



early 14c., polischen "make smooth," from Old French poliss-, present participle stem of polir (12c.) "to polish, decorate, see to one's appearance," from Latin polire "to polish, make smooth; decorate, embellish;" figuratively "refine, improve," said to be from Proto-Indo-European *pel- "to thrust, strike, drive" (via the notion of fulling cloth). The sense of "free from coarseness, to refine" first recorded in English mid-14c. Related: Polished; polishing. Slang polish off "finish" is 1837, from notion of applying a coat of polish being the final step in a piece of work.



1590s, "absence of coarseness," from polish (v.). From 1704 as "act of polishing;" 1819 as "substance used in polishing."



1670s, from Pole + -ish. Related: Polishness. Polish-American attested from 1898.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for polish up


Related Terms

is the pope polish

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with polish up
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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