Acronyms and Polish Terms

One thing I’ve found as I get deeper into the polish world is that there is a lot of polish jargon and acronyms to learn. I’ll try to keep updating this list as I go, and feel free to suggest additions to it. I know some definitions are subjective (for example, people don’t always agree on how a swatched bottle is defined), so in these cases, I’m using the definition I find works best.

Polish Finishes

  • Crelly- a cross between a creme and a jelly; more opaque than a jelly, more translucent than a creme (see creme and jelly)
  • Creme- an opaque polish with a very shiny finish
  • Duochrome- a shimmer or metallic polish that shifts colors in different lighting/at different angles
  • Flakie- reflective flakes, usually in irregular shapes and sizes in a clear or tinted base
  • Glitter- reflective particles, come in many shapes and sizes but are usually uniform or a mix of several uniform shapes, suspended in a clear or tinted base
  • Holographic- a polish with very reflective, rainbow like particles; especially pretty in the sun, they can be either linear or scattered
  • Jelly- a translucent finish, looks like Jelly, thus the name, some people describe it as looking squishy
  • Matte/Satin- an opaque polish with a very flat finish, not shiny
  • Metallic- reflective, metal-like polishes (I cannot define this without using the word metal, I’m sorry), includes foils (more shimmery), chromes (smoother and very reflective), and other specific finishes
  • Sheer- translucent polish, usually (but not always) in more nude/neutral colors
  • Shimmer- a polish with small shimmery particles in it, smaller than glitter, may be opaque or translucent, shiny finish
  • Silk- usually an opaque shimmery polish, with a matte finish
  • Soft Focus- a semi matte finish, between a creme and a matte
  • Stardust- a textured polish with semi matte glitter


  • BNIB, BNNU, BN, NIB- brand new in box, brand new never used, brand new, new in box
  • DISO- desperately in search of
  • EA- Ever After Polish
  • EP- Enchanted Polish (brand)
  • FM- Fair Maiden (brand)
  • HTF- Hard to Find
  • ILNP- I Love Nail Polish (brand)
  • ISO- in search of
  • PLU- Polish Lover’s Upgrade (Julep Box Option)
  • RAOK- Random Act of Kindness
  • TWS- The Whole Shebang (Julep Box Option)
  • UU- Ultimate Upgrade (Julep Box Option)


Common Terms

  • 5-free- this refers to nail polish that is free of formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DPB), toluene, formaldehyde resin, and camphor. Industry terminology used to use 3-free (the first three in the list), before moving to 4-free, and now 5-free seems the most common. Julep used to say 3 and 4-free, but has always been fully 5-free
  • Destash- to sell or swap extra or unwanted polishes
  • Indie- indie polish makers are small batch, independent makers. Indie makers tend to have a lot of unique polishes, and generally seem to make better holos than mainstream brands
  • Franken/Frankenstein- to add to a polish (such as with glitter) or mix polishes to create new polish
  • Swatched- in reference to a bottle of polish, one that has been used for multiple coats on a swatch stick, multiple coats on 1-2 fingers, or one coat on one hand, in my opinion. More than this I would consider to be used for one manicure
  • Unicorn/Ultimate Unicorn – a polish someone wants very badly and is usually very hard to find