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[tahr] /tɑr/
any of various dark-colored viscid products obtained by the destructive distillation of certain organic substances, as coal or wood.
coal-tar pitch.
smoke solids or components:
cigarette tar.
verb (used with object), tarred, tarring.
to smear or cover with or as if with tar.
of or characteristic of tar.
covered or smeared with tar; tarred.
beat / knock / whale the tar out of, Informal. to beat mercilessly:
The thief had knocked the tar out of the old man and left him for dead.
tar and feather,
  1. to coat (a person) with tar and feathers as a punishment or humiliation.
  2. to punish severely:
    She should be tarred and feathered for what she has done.
tarred with the same brush, possessing the same shortcomings or guilty of the same misdeeds:
The whole family is tarred with the same brush.
Origin of tar1
before 900; (noun) Middle English tarr(e), ter(re), Old English teru; cognate with Dutch, German teer, Old Norse tjara; akin to tree; (v.) Middle English terren, Old English tierwian, derivative of the noun
Related forms
nontarred, adjective
untarred, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for tarring
Historical Examples
  • Then I saw that instead of painting he was engaged in tarring the roof of the building.

  • There shall be no tarring and feathering of women by any man in my employ.

    The Prairie Mother Arthur Stringer
  • The third process in rope-making, is the tarring of the yarn.

  • Various ways have been tried for preparing the yarns for tarring.

  • If he had been complained of, the informer was in danger of tarring and feathering.

    Stage-coach and Tavern Days Alice Morse Earle
  • The men left their tarring and caulking under the drying-stages.

    The Harbor Master Theodore Goodridge Roberts
  • Hamilton had already turned to tarring and he wheeled with a snap in his voice.


    Charles Neville Buck
  • It's that mongrel chap on The Star who got a tarring from Binkus and his friends.

    In the Days of Poor Richard

    Irving Bacheller
  • They made so many converts that some shortsighted people of Hiram thought to stop their work by tarring and feathering them.

    Stories Of Ohio William Dean Howells
  • The window under the tower is in memory of Robert Southey whose daughter married a onetime vicar of tarring.

    Seaward Sussex Edric Holmes
British Dictionary definitions for tarring


any of various dark viscid substances obtained by the destructive distillation of organic matter such as coal, wood, or peat
another name for coal tar
verb (transitive) tars, tarring, tarred
to coat with tar
tar and feather, to punish by smearing tar and feathers over (someone)
tarred with the same brush, regarded as having the same faults
Derived Forms
tarry, adjective
tarriness, noun
Word Origin
Old English teoru; related to Old Frisian tera, Old Norse tjara, Middle Low German tere tar, Gothic triu tree


an informal word for seaman
Word Origin
C17: short for tarpaulin
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
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Word Origin and History for tarring



in tar and feather, 1769. A mob action in U.S. in Revolutionary times and several decades thereafter. Originally it had been imposed by an ordinance of Richard I (1189) as punishment in the navy for theft. Among other applications over the years was its use in 1623 by a bishop on "a party of incontinent friars and nuns" [OED], but not until 1769 was the verbal phrase attested. Related: Tarred; tarring.



a viscous liquid, Old English teoru, teru, literally "the pitch of (certain kinds of) trees," from Proto-Germanic *terwo- (cf. Old Norse tjara, Old Frisian tera, Middle Dutch tar, Dutch teer, German Teer), probably a derivation of *trewo-, from PIE *drew- "tree" (cf. Sanskrit daru "wood;" Lithuanian darva "pine wood;" Greek dory "beam, shaft of a spear," drys "tree, oak;" Gothic triu, Old English treow "tree;" see tree).

Tar baby is from an 1881 "Uncle Remus" story by Joel Chandler Harris. Tarheel for "North Carolina resident" first recorded 1864, probably from the gummy resin of pine woods. Tar water, an infusion of tar in cold water, was popular as a remedy from c.1740 through late 18c.



"sailor," 1670s, probably a special use of tar (n.1), which was a staple for waterproofing aboard old ships (sailors also being jocularly called knights of the tarbrush); or possibly a shortened form of tarpaulin, which was recorded as a nickname for a sailor in 1640s, from the tarpaulin garments they wore.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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tarring in Science
  1. A dark, oily, viscous material, consisting mainly of hydrocarbons, produced by the destructive distillation of organic substances such as wood, coal, or peat.

  2. See coal tar.

  3. A solid, sticky substance that remains when tobacco is burned. It accumulates in the lungs of smokers and is considered carcinogenic.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for tarring



A sailor

[1676+; fr the tarpaulin garments they made and wore]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with tarring


In addition to the idiom beginning with tar also see: beat the living daylights (tar) out of
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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