Try Our Apps


Avoid these words. Seriously.


[tahr-nish] /ˈtɑr nɪʃ/
verb (used with object)
to dull the luster of (a metallic surface), especially by oxidation; discolor.
to diminish or destroy the purity of; stain; sully:
The scandal tarnished his reputation.
verb (used without object)
to grow dull or discolored; lose luster.
to become sullied.
a tarnished coating.
tarnished condition; discoloration; alteration of the luster of a metal.
a stain or blemish.
Origin of tarnish
1590-1600; < Middle French terniss-, long stem of ternir to dull, deaden, derivative of terne dull, wan < Germanic; compare Old High German tarni, cognate with Old Saxon derni, Old English dierne hidden, obscure; see -ish2
Related forms
tarnishable, adjective
antitarnish, adjective
antitarnishing, adjective
nontarnishable, adjective
nontarnished, adjective
nontarnishing, adjective
untarnishable, adjective
untarnished, adjective
untarnishing, adjective
2. taint, blemish, soil.
1. brighten. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for tarnish
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The moment anybody peers at you you show a tarnish, and get put off.

    Love and Lucy

    Maurice Henry Hewlett
  • Was there not gold enough in his hair before, that he should tarnish it with this crown?

    Vera Oscar Wilde
  • So many of us tarnish our victories by the manner in which we display them.

  • Though the drops were salt, they would not tarnish the gold.

    The Maidens' Lodge Emily Sarah Holt
  • No one is trying to tarnish this person; no one has thought of it.

  • The honour of his name is in my keeping, he says, and he looks to me to do nothing to tarnish it.

    Great Porter Square, v. 2 Benjamin Leopold Farjeon
British Dictionary definitions for tarnish


to lose or cause to lose the shine, esp by exposure to air or moisture resulting in surface oxidation; discolour: silver tarnishes quickly
to stain or become stained; taint or spoil: a fraud that tarnished his reputation
a tarnished condition, surface, or film
Derived Forms
tarnishable, adjective
tarnisher, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Old French ternir to make dull, from terne lustreless, of Germanic origin; related to Old High German tarnen to conceal, Old English dierne hidden
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for tarnish

1590s, from present participle stem of Middle French ternir "dull the luster or brightness of, make dim" (15c.), probably from Old French terne (adj.) "dull, dark," from a Germanic source cognate with Old High German tarnjan "to conceal, hide," Old English dyrnan "to hide, darken," from Proto-Germanic *darnjaz (see dern). Figurative sense is from 1690s. Related: Tarnished; tarnishing.


1713, from tarnish (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Nearby words for tarnish

Word Value for tarnish

Scrabble Words With Friends