Printable Version
Pronunciation: fêr-bish Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To brighten by rubbing clean; to burnish, polish. 2. To restore the freshness or appearance of something, renovate, refurbish.

Notes: English-speakers are more familiar with refurbish, but did you know the prefix re- is redundant? Repetition in language is usually taken as emphasis, so refurbish does not mean "furbish again" but "furbish really well". The action noun for this word is furbishment and the personal noun is furbisher. Anything that may be restored is furbishable.

In Play: Today's Good Word is available for literal service: "The 19th century house had been recently furbished in the same style." It is also ever ready for figurative deployment: "The sword of justice should be furbished by the oil of mercy.

Word History: Today's word entered English from Old French forbiss-, present participle stem of forbir "to polish, burnish" (Modern French fourbir "to polish"). In the Middle Ages this word was mostly used in reference to burnishing armor. French borrowed its word from some Germanic source, probably something like Old High German furben "to clean, sweep". The B in this root was originally a suffix for we find Sanskrit pu "clean" and Latin purus "clean" and its derivative purgare "to clean". English got its pure and purge from Latin via French. (This is yet another fascinatingly Good Word recommended by a former student, Sue Gold of Westtown School in West Chester, Pennsylvania.)

Dr. Goodword,

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