to make smooth and glossy, especially by rubbing or friction:
to polish a brass doorknob.
to render finished, refined, or elegant:
His speech needs polishing.
to become smooth and glossy through polishing:
a flooring that polishes easily.
Archaic. to become refined or elegant.
a substance used to give smoothness or gloss:
shoe polish.
the act of polishing.
state of being polished.
smoothness and gloss of surface.
superiority of manner or execution; refinement; elegance:
the polish of a professional singer.
polish off, Informal.

to finish or dispose of quickly:
They polished off a gallon of ice cream between them.
to subdue or get rid of someone:
The fighter polished off his opponent in the first round.

polish up, to improve; refine:
She took lessons to polish up her speech.
of, relating to, or characteristic of Poland, its inhabitants, or their language.
a Slavic language, the principal language of Poland.
Abbreviation: Pol.
Contemporary Examples

But I doubt it will have a lasting influence on polish politics.
The Future of Poland Marcin Krol April 16, 2010

When I was finished, I asked her if she had any questions, and she smiled up at me pleasantly, then answered completely in polish.
How I Write: Lisa Scottoline and Daughter Francesca Serritella Noah Charney November 13, 2012

The WWI-era equipment had been acquired from a polish ammunition factory in the late 1930s.
Israel Had a Secret, Underground Bullet Factory Nina Strochlic July 17, 2014

The manicurist had just finished administering the polish to Michelle when there was a knock on the door, and there he was!
D.C. Diary Tina Brown January 17, 2009

A few days later, Rudolf Höss was handed to the polish authorities to face his own trial.
Inside the Nazi Mind at the Nuremberg Trials Thomas Harding September 6, 2013

Historical Examples

And then he told me his story—Russian, polish, and German, all mixed together.
In the World War Count Ottokar Czernin

Now to the practical: what are we to do for the polish of our manners?
A Dish Of Orts George MacDonald

This was the real reason why the polish question was so clumsily disposed of, and left to make trouble for the future.
The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 16, No. 93, July, 1865 Various

There goes a polish Count who is one of the greatest gamblers in Christendom.
Vivian Grey Earl of Beaconsfield, Benjamin Disraeli

Two of the three great fortresses forming the polish triangle had now gone; Brest alone remained, and its doom was already sealed.
The Childrens’ Story of the War, Volume 4 (of 10) James Edward Parrott

to make or become smooth and shiny by rubbing, esp with wax or an abrasive
(transitive) to make perfect or complete
to make or become elegant or refined
a finish or gloss
the act of polishing or the condition of having been polished
a substance used to produce a smooth and shiny, often protective surface
elegance or refinement, esp in style, manner, etc
of, relating to, or characteristic of Poland, its people, or their language
the official language of Poland, belonging to the West Slavonic branch of the Indo-European family

early 14c., polischen “make smooth,” from Old French poliss-, present participle stem of polir (12c.) “to polish, decorate, see to one’s appearance,” from Latin polire “to polish, make smooth; decorate, embellish;” figuratively “refine, improve,” said to be from Proto-Indo-European *pel- “to thrust, strike, drive” (via the notion of fulling cloth). The sense of “free from coarseness, to refine” first recorded in English mid-14c. Related: Polished; polishing. Slang polish off “finish” is 1837, from notion of applying a coat of polish being the final step in a piece of work.

1590s, “absence of coarseness,” from polish (v.). From 1704 as “act of polishing;” 1819 as “substance used in polishing.”

1670s, from Pole + -ish. Related: Polishness. Polish-American attested from 1898.

Related Terms

is the pope polish

polish off
polish the apple

also see:
spit and polish


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