- noun a flatterer, someone who curries favour. The term comes from the image of the ingratiating pupil who polishes an apple carefully before presenting it to a teacher. The tradition of ‘an apple for the teacher’ was really practised in rural USA before World War II, but the term is common in all English-speaking areas. It is sometimes in the form of a verb, as in ‘she’s been apple-polishing again’. In Britain it is often shortened to polisher.