spirit varnish



See under varnish(def 1).

Nearby words

  1. spirit leveling,
  2. spirit of enterprise,
  3. spirit of hartshorn,
  4. spirit of nitrous ether,
  5. spirit rapping,
  6. spirit wrestler,
  7. spirit writing,
  8. spirited,
  9. spiritism,
  10. spiritless

Origin of spirit varnish

First recorded in 1840–50




a preparation consisting of resinous matter, as copal or lac, dissolved in an oil (oil varnish) or in alcohol (spirit varnish) or other volatile liquid. When applied to the surface of wood, metal, etc., it dries and leaves a hard, more or less glossy, usually transparent coating.
the sap of certain trees, used for the same purpose (natural varnish).
any of various other preparations similarly used, as one having India rubber, pyroxylin, or asphalt as its chief constituent.
a coating or surface of varnish.
something resembling or suggesting a coat of varnish; gloss.
superficial polish or external show, especially to conceal some defect or inadequacy: The play has a varnish of witty dialogue.
British. nail polish.

verb (used with object)

to apply varnish to; coat or cover with varnish.
to give a glossy appearance to.
to give an improved appearance to; adorn.
to give a superficially pleasing appearance to, especially in order to deceive: to varnish the truth.

Origin of varnish

1300–50; Middle English varnisch < Middle French vernis, verniz < Medieval Latin vernicium sandarac < Medieval Greek bernī́kē, syncopated variant of Greek Berenī́kē, city in Cyrenaica

Related formsvar·nish·er, nounvar·nish·y, adjectivere·var·nish, verb (used with object)well-var·nished, adjective

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

Examples from the Web for spirit varnish

  • This method of oil-finish, too, is scarcely inferior to the shellac or spirit-varnish method, and it is cheaper.

British Dictionary definitions for spirit varnish

spirit varnish


a varnish consisting of a gum or resin, such as shellac or copal, dissolved in alcohol



Also called: oil varnish a preparation consisting of a solvent, a drying oil, and usually resin, rubber, bitumen, etc, for application to a surface where it polymerizes to yield a hard glossy, usually transparent, coating
a similar preparation consisting of a substance, such as shellac or cellulose ester, dissolved in a volatile solvent, such as alcohol. It hardens to a film on evaporation of the solventSee also spirit varnish
Also called: natural varnish the sap of certain trees used to produce such a coating
a smooth surface, coated with or as with varnish
an artificial, superficial, or deceptively pleasing manner, covering, etc; veneer
mainly British another word for nail polish

verb (tr)

to cover with varnish
to give a smooth surface to, as if by painting with varnish
to impart a more attractive appearance to
to make superficially attractive
Derived Formsvarnisher, noun

Word Origin for varnish

C14: from Old French vernis, from Medieval Latin veronix sandarac, resin, from Medieval Greek berenikē, perhaps from Greek Berenikē, city in Cyrenaica, Libya where varnishes were used

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 spirit varnish
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper