Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To make smooth or glossy by or as if by rubbing; polish.
  • transitive v. To rub with a tool that serves especially to smooth or polish.
  • n. A smooth glossy finish or appearance; luster.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To make smooth or shiny by rubbing; to polish; to shine.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • transitive v. To cause to shine; to make smooth and bright; to polish; specifically, to polish by rubbing with something hard and smooth.
  • intransitive v. To shine forth; to brighten; to become smooth and glossy, as from swelling or filling out; hence, to grow large.
  • n. The effect of burnishing; gloss; brightness; luster.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To cause to glow or become resplendent.
  • To polish by friction; make smooth and lustrous: as, to burnish steel.
  • To grow, as a child; thrive; flourish; become fat and sleek; hence, to become bright or brilliant; show conspicuously.
  • n. Polish; hence, gloss; brightness; luster.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. polish and make shiny
  • n. the property of being smooth and shiny

Etymologies

Middle English burnishen, from Old French burnir, burniss-, variant of brunir, from brun, shining, of Germanic origin; see bher-2 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French burnir, from its stem burniss-, variant of brunir ("to polish, make brown"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Nice to see a potential American leader able to once again burnish America’s image abroad. —

    Obama’s High-Powered Ride to the Airport - The Caucus Blog - NYTimes.com

  • This past week, Limbaugh insisted that the Obama White House would use the catastrophe in Haiti to "burnish" the president's standing and credibility "with the black community, in the both light-skinned and dark-skinned black community, in this country."

    Bush Pushes Back Against Limbaugh's Obama-Haiti Remark

  • The editors accuse Scott of "shamelessly exploiting the tragedy of a family of a severely disabled young woman" in order to "burnish" his pro-life bona fides.

    Rick Scott, Florida Gubernatorial Candidate, Assailed By St. Petersburg Times In Editorial

  • So, very clearly in the political sense, given that this was during an election year and part of an effort to kind of burnish up his foreign policy credentials, it was interesting to me that he spent so much time in Israel, that he did make that statement in Sderot, which is one of the reasons that Israel is now in the Gaza is to stop those incoming missiles.

    CNN Transcript Jan 7, 2009

  • So it definitely -- it just frees her up to -- to not only enhance her name recognition, which is already really high, but also to kind of burnish her brand, because she is still so much a figure that, you know, conservatives like and what she needs to do now, clearly, is become more of an independent -- a figure that Independents can like.

    CNN Transcript Jul 3, 2009

  • Inside the word "burnish," by a neat linguistic accident, lies the word "burn" — the copper shines because of the burning heat of the sun, so to speak.

    Emperor of Nostalgia

  • RadioShack would "burnish" its brand, add more private-label programs, and continue to build its wireless business under a new go-to-market strategy that was shared with investors during a rare earnings call by chairman/CEO Julian Day.

    TWICE - Digital Imaging News

  • Ann Coulter is jealous of the attention Rush Limbaugh has been getting since making his comment about the Obama administration wanting to exploit the Haitian tragedy to "burnish" his credentials with the black community.

    Raw Story

  • FORT WORTH, TEXAS - RadioShack will "burnish" its brand, add more private-label programs, and continue to improve productivity and performance under its

    TWICE - Digital Imaging News

  • How does stepping in each of those places for a 3 hr. photo op "burnish" his foriegn policy cedentials?

    Latest Articles

Comments

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  • "Close to the shore, patches of vapour, soot-black but with the burnish and consistency of agate, visibly solid and palpable, were trying to rise one above another over the sea in ever wider tiers, so that the highest of them, poised on the top of the twisted column and overreaching the centre of gravity of those which had hitherto supported them, seemed on the point of bringing down in ruin this lofty structure already half-way up the sky, and precipitating it into the sea."

    -- Within a Budding Grove by Marcel Proust, translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin, Revised by D.J. Enright, p 523 of the Modern Library paperback edition

    April 26, 2008