[ steyn ]
/ steɪn /
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See synonyms for: stain / stained on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)
to produce a stain.
to become stained; take a stain: This fabric stains easily.
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Origin of stain

1350–1400; Middle English steynen<Old Norse steina to paint; in some senses aphetic form of distain


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


What else does stain mean?

In general, a stain is something that leaves a mark.

In youth slang, a stain is a “worthless person.” In Black American slang, stain is a gang culture expression for “armed robbery.”

Where does stain come from?

Content warning: this article contains vulgar language.

The word stain is an old one in English. Starting in the 14th century, stain was a verb meaning “to blemish.” It became a noun referring to a mark or spot by the 16th century.

In the early 1600s, saying someone was stained could mean they were “drunk”—a slang sense that re-emerged in the 1990s.

By the 1990s, stain was in evidence in American and British English as a slang expression for a jerk (i.e., a contemptible person). This stain could be a shortening of wank-stain (the stain left over from ejaculate) or shit-stain.

In the 2010s, a stain in Black American gang slang came to refer to an “armed robbery,” either of a neighborhood business or of an individual. It’s possible that this stain comes from the metaphor that committing crime leaves a stain on one’s character. Typically, it is found in the expression hit a stain, meaning to “commit a robbery.”

A prominent example of the robbery sense of stain comes from the 2018 track “GUMMO” by notorious rapper and sometime criminal, 6ix9ine: “Hit a stain, fifty bands, all hunnids,” meaning that he’s robbed someone and got fifty thousand dollars in strapped hundred-dollar bills.

How is stain used in real life?

Calling someone a stain can be found in youth slang, especially in the UK.

It’s a distinctly insulting expression, insinuating someone is as disgusting as the mess left over by semen or feces.

In Black American gang slang, hitting a stain is a way to talk about committing armed robbery. Gangsters—and their wannabes—might reference past stains and stains they’re planning to hit.

As we’ve seen, the gang-related stain can be found in hip-hop songs, such as Chance the Rapper’s 2013 track “Chain Smoker”: “Stain hitting, satin woodgrain gripping / Paint dripping / Motha, shut your mouth.”


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

How to use stain in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for stain

/ (steɪn) /

verb (mainly tr)

Derived forms of stain

stainable, adjectivestainability, nounstainer, noun

Word Origin for stain

C14 steynen (vb), shortened from disteynen to remove colour from, from Old French desteindre to discolour, from des- dis- 1 + teindre, from Latin tingere to tinge
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