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 formsbur·nish·a·ble, adjectivebur·nish·ment, nounun·bur·nished, adjective

Synonyms for burnish

1. buff, shine.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for burnished

shine, rub, glaze, furbish, gloss, smooth, wax, glance, luster, sheen, buff, patina

Examples from the Web for burnished

Contemporary Examples of burnished

Historical Examples of burnished

  • The floor was scrubbed to whiteness, the very stove was burnished.

  • The reins were of silk, and the chariot shone with burnished gold.


    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

British Dictionary definitions for burnished



to make or become shiny or smooth by friction; polish


a shiny finish; lustre
Derived Formsburnishable, adjectiveburnisher, noun

Word Origin for burnish

C14 burnischen, from Old French brunir to make brown, from brun brown
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

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