[glos, glaws]


a superficial luster or shine; glaze: the gloss of satin.
a false or deceptively good appearance.
Also glosser. a cosmetic that adds sheen or luster, especially one for the lips.

verb (used with object)

to put a gloss upon.
to give a false or deceptively good appearance to: to gloss over flaws in the woodwork.

Origin of gloss

1530–40; probably akin to Dutch gloos glowing, Middle High German glosen to glow, shine, Swedish dialect glysa to shine
Related formsgloss·less, adjective

Synonyms for gloss

1. See polish. 2. front, pretense.


[glos, glaws]


an explanation or translation, by means of a marginal or interlinear note, of a technical or unusual expression in a manuscript text.
a series of verbal interpretations of a text.
a glossary.
an artfully misleading interpretation.

verb (used with object)

to insert glosses on; annotate.
to place (a word) in a gloss.
to give a specious interpretation of; explain away (often followed by over or away): to gloss over a serious problem with a pat solution.

verb (used without object)

to make glosses.

Origin of gloss

1250–1300; (noun) Middle English glose (< Old French glose) < Medieval Latin glōsa, glōza < Greek glôssa word requiring explanation, literally, language, tongue; (v.) Middle English glosen < Medieval Latin glōssāre, derivative of glōsa; cf. gloze, reflecting the Old French pronunciation of verb
Related formsgloss·ing·ly, adverb

Synonyms for gloss


a combining form meaning “tongue, word, speech,” used in the formation of compound words: glossology.
Also glotto-; especially before a vowel, gloss-.

Origin of glosso-

< Greek (Ionic), combining form of glôssa

gloss. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for gloss

Contemporary Examples of gloss

Historical Examples of gloss

  • They draw this distinction when it is too late, and use it as a quibble to gloss over their fault.

  • This filler should be very thin and leave only a suggestion of gloss.


    Leon Luther Pray

  • Nor did he try to gloss over or strive to nullify his own dishonorable actions.

    Garrison's Finish

    W. B. M. Ferguson

  • What could gloss over the base return he made them for all their hospitalities and attention?

    Jack Hinton

    Charles James Lever

  • One does not care to own a girl as tall as that while the gloss is on one's hair.

British Dictionary definitions for gloss




  1. lustre or sheen, as of a smooth surface
  2. (as modifier)gloss paint
a superficially attractive appearance
a cosmetic preparation applied to the skin to give it a faint sheenlip gloss


to give a gloss to or obtain a gloss
See also gloss over
Derived Formsglosser, nounglossless, adjective

Word Origin for gloss

C16: probably of Scandinavian origin; compare Icelandic glossi flame, Middle High German glosen to glow




a short or expanded explanation or interpretation of a word, expression, or foreign phrase in the margin or text of a manuscript, etc
an intentionally misleading explanation or interpretation
short for glossary

verb (tr)

to add glosses to
Derived Formsglosser, nounglossingly, adverb

Word Origin for gloss

C16: from Latin glōssa unusual word requiring explanatory note, from Ionic Greek


abbreviation for



before a vowel gloss-

combining form

indicating a tongue or languageglossolaryngeal

Word Origin for glosso-

from Greek glossa tongue
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 gloss

"luster," 1530s, from Scandinavian (cf. Icelandic glossi "flame," related to glossa "to flame"), or obsolete Dutch gloos "a glowing," from Middle High German glos; probably ultimately from the same source as Old English glowan (see glow (v.)).


"word inserted as an explanation," 1540s (earlier gloze, c.1300), from Latin glossa "obsolete or foreign word," one that requires explanation; hence also "explanation, note," from Greek glossa (Ionic), glotta (Attic) "obscure word, language," also "mouthpiece," literally "tongue," from PIE *glogh- "thorn, point, that which is projected" (cf. Old Church Slavonic glogu "thorn"). Figurative use from 1540s. Both glossology (1716) and glottology (1841) have been used in the sense "science of language."


1570s as "insert a word as an explanation," from gloss (n.2). From 1650s as "to add luster," from gloss (n.1). Figurative sense of "smooth over, hide" is from 1729, mostly from gloss (n.1) but showing influence of gloss (n.2) in the extended verbal sense of "explain away" (1630s), from idea of a note inserted in the margin of a text to explain a difficult word. Related: Glossed; glossing.


word-forming element meaning "tongue," from Greek glosso-, comb. form of glossa "tongue" (see gloss (n.2)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

gloss in Medicine



The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.