• synonyms


[glos, glaws]
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  1. an explanation or translation, by means of a marginal or interlinear note, of a technical or unusual expression in a manuscript text.
  2. a series of verbal interpretations of a text.
  3. a glossary.
  4. an artfully misleading interpretation.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to insert glosses on; annotate.
  2. to place (a word) in a gloss.
  3. to give a specious interpretation of; explain away (often followed by over or away): to gloss over a serious problem with a pat solution.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to make glosses.
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Origin of gloss2

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


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


British Dictionary definitions for gloss over

gloss over

verb (tr, adverb)
  1. to hide under a deceptively attractive surface or appearance
  2. to deal with (unpleasant facts) rapidly and cursorily, or to omit them altogether from an account of something
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    1. lustre or sheen, as of a smooth surface
    2. (as modifier)gloss paint
  1. a superficially attractive appearance
  2. See gloss paint
  3. a cosmetic preparation applied to the skin to give it a faint sheenlip gloss
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  1. to give a gloss to or obtain a gloss
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See also gloss over
Derived Formsglosser, nounglossless, adjective

Word Origin

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


  1. a short or expanded explanation or interpretation of a word, expression, or foreign phrase in the margin or text of a manuscript, etc
  2. an intentionally misleading explanation or interpretation
  3. short for glossary
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verb (tr)
  1. to add glosses to
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Derived Formsglosser, nounglossingly, adverb

Word Origin

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



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.

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"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.)).

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"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."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with gloss over

gloss over

Make attractive or acceptable by deception or superficial treatment. For example, His resumé glossed over his lack of experience, or She tried to gloss over the mistake by insisting it would make no difference. [Mid-1600s]

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.