• synonyms


verb (used with object)
  1. to polish (a surface) by friction.
  2. to make smooth and bright.
  3. Engraving. to flatten and enlarge the dots of (a halftone) by rubbing with a tool.
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  1. gloss; brightness; luster: the burnish of brass andirons.
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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


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

Examples from the Web for unburnished

Historical Examples

  • To be distinguished from the above is the term “mat” in glass-painting or gilding, meaning dull, unpolished or unburnished.

    Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 17, Slice 7


  • Gold-leaf gilding, even if it is unburnished, is infinitely more brilliant than either gold paint or shell gold.

British Dictionary definitions for unburnished


  1. to make or become shiny or smooth by friction; polish
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  1. a shiny finish; lustre
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Derived Formsburnishable, adjectiveburnisher, noun

Word Origin

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 unburnished



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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper