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From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Varnish \Var"nish\, n. [OE. vernish, F. vernis, LL. vernicium; akin to F. vernir to varnish, fr. (assumed) LL. vitrinire to glaze, from LL. vitrinus glassy, fr. L. vitrum glass. See Vitreous.] [1913 Webster] 1. A viscid liquid, consisting of a solution of resinous matter in an oil or a volatile liquid, laid on work with a brush, or otherwise. When applied the varnish soon dries, either by evaporation or chemical action, and the resinous part forms thus a smooth, hard surface, with a beautiful gloss, capable of resisting, to a greater or less degree, the influences of air and moisture. [1913 Webster] Note: According to the sorts of solvents employed, the ordinary kinds of varnish are divided into three classes: spirit, turpentine, and oil varnishes. --Encyc. Brit [1913 Webster] 2. That which resembles varnish, either naturally or artificially; a glossy appearance. [1913 Webster] The varnish of the holly and ivy. --Macaulay. [1913 Webster] 3. An artificial covering to give a fair appearance to any act or conduct; outside show; gloss. [1913 Webster] And set a double varnish on the fame The Frenchman gave you. --Shak. [1913 Webster] Varnish tree (Bot.), a tree or shrub from the juice or resin of which varnish is made, as some species of the genus Rhus, especially Rhus vernicifera of Japan. The black varnish of Burmah is obtained from the Melanorrh[oe]a usitatissima, a tall East Indian tree of the Cashew family. See Copal, and Mastic. [1913 Webster]