verb (used with object)

verb (used without object)

to produce a stain.
to become stained; take a stain: This fabric stains easily.

Origin of stain

1350–1400; Middle English steynen < Old Norse steina to paint; in some senses aphetic form of distain
Related formsstain·a·ble, adjectivestain·a·bil·i·ty, stain·a·ble·ness, nounstain·a·bly, adverbstain·er, nounde·stain·er, nounnon·stain·a·ble, adjectivenon·stain·er, nounnon·stain·ing, adjectivere·stain, verbun·der·stain, nounun·der·stain, verb (used with object)well-stained, adjective

Synonyms for stain Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for stain

Contemporary Examples of stain

Historical Examples of stain

  • Bitterly he recalled the stain upon his family in generations gone by.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • There was no stain of savagery upon the delight we had in coming to this spot.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

  • Nay, fear no trick; like you I remember my soul, and do not stain my hands with blood.

    Fair Margaret

    H. Rider Haggard

  • "It would be better not to stain our hands with the creature's blood," he said.

    Fair Margaret

    H. Rider Haggard

  • A stain on the name of Huron can only be hid by blood that comes from the veins of an Indian.

    The Last of the Mohicans

    James Fenimore Cooper

British Dictionary definitions for stain


verb (mainly tr)

to mark or discolour with patches of something that dirtiesthe dress was stained with coffee
to dye with a penetrating dyestuff or pigment
to bring disgrace or shame onto stain someone's honour
to colour (specimens) for microscopic study by treatment with a dye or similar reagent
(intr) to produce indelible marks or discolorationdoes ink stain?


a spot, mark, or discoloration
a moral taint; blemish or slur
a dye or similar reagent, used to colour specimens for microscopic study
a solution or liquid used to penetrate the surface of a material, esp wood, and impart a rich colour without covering up the surface or grain
any dye that is made into a solution and used to colour textiles and hides
Derived Formsstainable, 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

Word Origin and History for stain

late 14c., probably representing a merger of Old Norse steina "to paint" and a shortened form of Middle English disteynen "to discolor or stain," from Old French desteign-, stem of desteindre "to remove the color," from des- (from Latin dis- "remove;" see dis-) + Old French teindre "to dye," from Latin tingere (see tincture). Related: Stained; staining. Stained glass is attested from 1791.


1560s, from stain (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for stain




A reagent or dye that is used for staining microscopic specimens.
A procedure in which a dye or a combination of dyes and reagents is used to color the constituents of cells and tissues.


To treat specimens for the microscope with a reagent or dye that makes visible certain structures without affecting others.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.