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From Middle English burnysshen, burnischen, a borrowing from Old French burnir, from its stem burniss-, variant of brunir (to polish, make brown), from Old French brun (brown). More at English brown.


burnish (third-person singular simple present burnishes, present participle burnishing, simple past and past participle burnished)

  1. (transitive) To make smooth or shiny by rubbing; to polish; to shine.
    In pottery, a stone is sometimes used to burnish a pot before firing, giving it a smooth, shiny look.
    • Dryden
      The frame of burnished steel, that cast a glare / From far, and seemed to thaw the freezing air.
    • Cunningham
      Now the village windows blaze, / Burnished by the setting sun.
  2. (intransitive) To shine forth; to brighten; to become smooth and glossy, as from swelling or filling out; hence, to grow large.
    • Dryden
      A slender poet must have time to grow, / And spread and burnish as his brothers do.
    • Herbert
      My thoughts began to burnish, sprout, and swell.





  1. Polish; lustre.