[ mahr ]
/ mɑr /
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verb (used with object), marred, mar·ring.
to damage or spoil to a certain extent; render less perfect, attractive, useful, etc.; impair or spoil: That billboard mars the view. The holiday was marred by bad weather.
to disfigure, deface, or scar: The scratch marred the table.
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Origin of mar

First recorded before 900; Middle English merren, Old English merran “to hinder, waste”; cognate with Old Saxon merrian, Old High German merren “to hinder,” Old Norse merja “to bruise,” Gothic marzjan “to offend”

synonym study for mar

1, 2. Mar, deface, disfigure, deform agree in applying to some form of injury. Mar is general, but usually refers to an external or surface injury, if it is a physical one: The tabletop was marred by dents and scratches. Deface refers to a surface injury that may be temporary or easily repaired: a tablecloth defaced by penciled notations. Disfigure applies to external injury of a more permanent and serious kind: A birthmark disfigured one side of his face. Deform suggests that something has been distorted or internally injured so severely as to change its normal form or qualities, or else that some fault has interfered with its proper development: deformed by an accident that had crippled him; to deform feet by binding them.


un·mar·ring, adjective

Other definitions for mar (2 of 4)



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Other definitions for mar (4 of 4)


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does mar mean?

To mar something is to damage, spoil, deface, disfigure, or scar it—either literally (such as by scratching or making a mark on an object) or figuratively (such as by spoiling a party by getting into an argument).

Mar is used somewhat more formally than many of its synonyms. Whether used literally or figuratively, it always refers to spoiling something by making it worse or less perfect than it was. Its figurative sense is more often used in writing (especially journalism) than in everyday speech. Mar can also be used as a noun, meaning a blemish, but this is less common.

Example: The senator’s campaign event was unfortunately marred by people who wanted to disrupt the event by interrupting her speech.

Where does mar come from?

Mar is an old word. The first records of its use come from before 900. It comes from the Old English word merran, meaning “to hinder” or “to waste.” That word is related to the Old Norse merja, “to bruise,” and the Gothic marzjan, “to offend.”

Mar most commonly refers to scratching, marking up, or otherwise defacing the outside or surface of something. Tabletops often get marred by knicks and scratches. Your car door has probably been marred by getting scratched with keys or dented by other car doors. People sometimes mar wood surfaces by scratching words into them. In most cases, the thing that’s been marred usually started as a smooth or unblemished surface that has been made imperfect with some kind of marking.

Mar is used figuratively to refer to an action that has ruined or disrupted something, especially an event, as in The debate was marred by constant personal attacks. It can be applied in many different situations, such as describing how a sports team’s season was marred by injuries, or how someone’s success has been marred by scandal. Because it’s a short word, you’ll often see it used in news headlines to refer to such a situation, as in Fundraiser marred by protests. 

In all cases, mar is used to refer to a negative effect on something, often a permanent one.

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What are some other forms related to mar?

  • unmarred (adjective)
  • unmarring (adjective)
  • marrer (noun)

What are some synonyms for mar?

What are some words that often get used in discussing mar?


How is mar used in real life?

Mar is always used negatively to indicate that something has been defaced or spoiled in some way. It’s commonly used in news headlines.



Try using mar!

Which of the following words is NOT a synonym of mar?

A. ruin
B. enhance
C. blight
D. tarnish

How to use mar in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for mar (1 of 2)

/ (mɑː) /

verb mars, marring or marred
(tr) to cause harm to; spoil or impair
a disfiguring mark; blemish

Derived forms of mar

marrer, noun

Word Origin for mar

Old English merran; compare Old Saxon merrian to hinder, Old Norse merja to bruise

British Dictionary definitions for mar (2 of 2)


abbreviation for
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