Definition of varnish in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈvärniSH/


1Resin dissolved in a liquid for applying on wood, metal, or other materials to form a hard, clear, shiny surface when dry.
Example sentences
  • Both cabins have redwood siding that appears to have been given a clear coat of varnish or shellac.
  • The rockers were made of wood, their dark varnish scuffed and scraped.
  • Lots of glue was used to fix this all in place, and over the top of all this a few layers of varnish or shellac were applied to finally seal the whole thing.
1.1 [in singular] archaic An external or superficially attractive appearance of a specific quality: an outward varnish of civilization
More example sentences
  • Extremist impulses have acquired a varnish of respectability through the intercession of the socialist leaders.
  • It was reduced to the purely decorative art of whether or not to put the varnish of international approval on a decision already made.
  • It would take a lot more than suggesting Lincoln was gay to strip some of the varnish off of his image.


[with object]
1Apply varnish to: we stripped the floor and varnished it
More example sentences
  • Both rooms are painted in a rich red and have varnished pine floors, picture rails and attractive brick fireplaces.
  • Belt sanders are relatively inexpensive to hire and while sanding and varnishing floors is tough work, buyers will love the results.
  • The floors and banisters had been varnished and polished till they gleamed, the frames of paintings had received a thorough cleaning.
1.1Disguise or gloss over (a fact): the White House is varnishing over the defeat of the president’s proposal
More example sentences
  • He doesn't varnish the facts because he doesn't have to.
  • John Fahey tried to varnish over the problems by citing family and work commitments as the reason for the poor turnout at a recent training session.



Pronunciation: /ˈvärniSHər/
Example sentences
  • For the ceiling of this room alone, Allard employed designers, cabinetmakers, carpenters, ‘omamanists,’ carvers, gilders, and varnishers.
  • Time, helped by the eager brushes of varnishers and retouchers, has altered many a painting so that even its old master wouldn't know it.
  • Painters and varnishers carry out their work independently and in a customer-oriented manner on the basis of work orders, plans and designs, both alone and as part of a team.


Middle English: from Old French vernis, from medieval Latin veronix 'fragrant resin, sandarac' or medieval Greek berenikē, probably from Berenice, a town in Cyrenaica.

  • Varnish is from Old French vernis, from medieval Latin veronix ‘fragrant resin,’ which comes from medieval Greek berenikē from Berenice, the name of a town in Cyrenaica, a region of Libya.

Words that rhyme with varnish

garnish, tarnish

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: var·nish

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