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

  • n. A surface shininess or luster.
  • n. A cosmetic that adds shine or luster.
  • n. A superficially or deceptively attractive appearance.
  • transitive v. To give a bright sheen or luster to.
  • transitive v. To make attractive or acceptable by deception or superficial treatment: a resumé that glossed over the applicant's lack of experience. See Synonyms at palliate.
  • intransitive v. To become shiny or lustrous.
  • n. A brief explanatory note or translation of a difficult or technical expression usually inserted in the margin or between lines of a text or manuscript.
  • n. A collection of such notes; a glossary.
  • n. An extensive commentary, often accompanying a text or publication.
  • n. A purposefully misleading interpretation or explanation.
  • transitive v. To provide (an expression or a text) with a gloss or glosses.
  • transitive v. To give a false interpretation to.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A surface shine or luster/lustre
  • n. A superficially or deceptively attractive appearance
  • v. To give a gloss or sheen to.
  • v. To make (something) attractive by deception
  • v. To become shiny.
  • n. A brief explanatory note or translation of a difficult or complex expression, usually inserted in the margin or between lines of a text.
  • n. A glossary; a collection of such notes.
  • n. An extensive commentary on some text.
  • n. A deliberately misleading explanation.
  • n. A brief explanation in speech or in a written work, including a synonym used with the intent of indicating the meaning of the word to which it is applied
  • n. (law, US) An interpretation by a court of specific point within a statute or case law
  • v. To add a gloss to (a text).
  • v. To give a deliberately false interpretation of.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Brightness or luster of a body proceeding from a smooth surface; polish
  • n. A specious appearance; superficial quality or show.
  • n. A foreign, archaic, technical, or other uncommon word requiring explanation.
  • n. An interpretation, consisting of one or more words, interlinear or marginal; an explanatory note or comment; a running commentary.
  • n. A false or specious explanation.
  • intransitive v. To make comments; to comment; to explain.
  • intransitive v. To make sly remarks, or insinuations.
  • transitive v. To give a superficial luster or gloss to; to make smooth and shining.
  • transitive v. To render clear and evident by comments; to illustrate; to explain; to annotate.
  • transitive v. To give a specious appearance to; to render specious and plausible; to palliate by specious explanation.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To give a superficial luster to; make smooth and shining: as, to gloss cloth; to gloss a horse's coat.
  • Hence To impart a specious appearance to; hide under a smooth false show.
  • To explain by a gloss or marginal note; translate; hence, to render clear and evident by comments; illustrate; comment upon.
  • Hence To give a specious appearance to; render specious and plausible; palliate by fabricated representation.
  • To comment; write or make explanatory remarks.
  • n. A superficial lustrous smoothness, with soft changing reflections, due to the nature of the material, as distinguished from polish, which is artificially produced; in general, any glistening smoothness, natural or artificial: as, the gloss of satin, of hair, of paint, etc.
  • n. Hence External show; a specious appearance or representation.
  • n. A word in the text of an author, especially a foreign author, requiring explanation.
  • n. The explanation, translation, or definition of such a word; an explanatory note or remark upon some word or passage in a text, especially one written in the margin, or, as was the practice with the earliest glosses, between the lines.
  • n. Hence An artfully misleading or false explanation.
  • n. In leather manufacturing, a preparation which gives leather its final polish or finish.
  • n. An abbreviation of glossary.

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

  • n. an explanation or definition of an obscure word in a text
  • v. provide interlinear explanations for words or phrases
  • v. provide an interlinear translation of a word or phrase
  • v. give a shine or gloss to, usually by rubbing
  • n. an outward or token appearance or form that is deliberately misleading
  • n. an alphabetical list of technical terms in some specialized field of knowledge; usually published as an appendix to a text on that field
  • n. the property of being smooth and shiny
  • v. give a deceptive explanation or excuse for


Perhaps of Scandinavian origin; akin to Icelandic glossi, a spark; see ghel-2 in Indo-European roots.
Middle English glose, from Old French, from Medieval Latin glōsa, from Latin glōssa, foreign word requiring explanation, from Greek, tongue, language.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Icelandic glossi ("a blaze"). (Wiktionary)
From Late Latin glossa ("an obsolete or foreign difficult word requiring explanation, later applied to explanation itself"), from Ancient Greek γλῶσσα (glōssa, "tongue, language, an obsolete or foreign word requiring explanation"). (Wiktionary)



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • The linguistics department of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig (dir. Bernard Comrie) has codified morphemic glossing rules. Hurrah!

    June 11, 2009