Origin of polish

1250–1300; Middle English polishen < Middle French poliss-, long stem of polir < Latin polīre to polish; see -ish2
Related formspol·ish·er, nounde·pol·ish, verb (used with object)in·ter·pol·ish, verb (used with object)o·ver·pol·ish, verb (used with object)pre·pol·ish, noun, verb (used with object)re·pol·ish, verb, noun

Synonyms for polish

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.




of, relating to, or characteristic of Poland, its inhabitants, or their language.


a Slavic language, the principal language of Poland. Abbreviation: Pol

Origin of Polish

First recorded in 1695–1705; Pole + -ish1
Related formsan·ti-Pol·ish, noun, adjectivenon-Pol·ish, adjective, nounpre-Pol·ish, adjectivepro-Pol·ish, adjectivepseu·do-Po·lish, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for polish

Contemporary Examples of polish

Historical Examples of polish

  • Just what I have said we must do for the polish of our style.

    A Dish Of Orts

    George MacDonald

  • Now to the practical: what are we to do for the polish of our manners?

    A Dish Of Orts

    George MacDonald

  • Let us then take the fuller meaning of polish, and see how it will apply to style.

    A Dish Of Orts

    George MacDonald

  • We ended by waltzing, first in the Polish, and afterwards in the Parisian manner.

  • A Polish chap in the studio said something about it yesterday.

    The Harbor

    Ernest Poole

British Dictionary definitions for polish



to make or become smooth and shiny by rubbing, esp with wax or an abrasive
(tr) 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
Derived Formspolishable, adjectivepolisher, noun

Word Origin for polish

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

Word Origin and History for polish

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

Idioms and Phrases with polish


In addition to the idioms beginning with polish

  • polish off
  • polish the apple

also see:

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