Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A black enamel or lacquer used to produce a durable glossy finish.
  • noun An object decorated with this substance.
  • transitive verb To decorate with a black enamel or lacquer.
  • transitive verb To coat with a glossy finish.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To invest with the black coat of a clergyman; ordain.
  • Of or pertaining to Japan: as, Japan varnish (now written “japan varnish,” without reference to the country); Japan work, etc.
  • noun Work varnished and figured in the manner practised by the natives of Japan.
  • noun A liquid having somewhat the nature of a varnish, made by cooking gum shellac with linseed-oil in a varnish-kettle.
  • noun An asphaltum varnish.
  • noun A black cane.
  • To varnish with japan; cover with any material which gives a hard black gloss.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To cover with a coat of hard, brilliant varnish, in the manner of the Japanese; to lacquer.
  • transitive verb rare To give a glossy black to, as shoes.
  • adjective Of or pertaining to Japan, or to the lacquered work of that country.
  • adjective (Bot.) a spiny shrub from Japan (Chimonanthus fragrans), related to the Carolina allspice.
  • adjective (Chem.) a quickly drying black lacquer or varnish, consisting essentially of asphaltum dissolved in naphtha or turpentine, and used for coating ironwork; -- called also Brunswick black, Japan lacquer, or simply Japan.
  • adjective ordinary camphor brought from China or Japan, as distinguished from the rare variety called borneol or Borneo camphor.
  • adjective (Bot.) a cloverlike plant (Lespedeza striata) from Eastern Asia, useful for fodder, first noticed in the Southern United States about 1860, but now become very common. During the Civil War it was called variously Yankee clover and Rebel clover.
  • adjective See Catechu.
  • adjective a kind of writing ink, of a deep, glossy black when dry.
  • adjective a varnish prepared from the milky juice of the Rhus vernix, a small Japanese tree related to the poison sumac.
  • noun Work varnished and figured in the Japanese manner; also, the varnish or lacquer used in japanning.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A hard black enamel varnish containing asphalt.
  • noun Lacquer ware.
  • verb transitive To varnish with japan.

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

  • verb coat with a lacquer, as done in Japan
  • noun lacquer with a durable glossy black finish, originally from the orient
  • noun a string of more than 3,000 islands to the east of Asia extending 1,300 miles between the Sea of Japan and the western Pacific Ocean
  • noun lacquerware decorated and varnished in the Japanese manner with a glossy durable black lacquer
  • noun a constitutional monarchy occupying the Japanese Archipelago; a world leader in electronics and automobile manufacture and ship building

Etymologies

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

[After Japan.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Japan, due to this varnishing process being an imitation of oriental (East Asian) processes.

Examples

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