[ 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, tar·ring.

to smear or cover with or as if with tar.


of or characteristic of tar.
covered or smeared with tar; tarred.

Nearby words

  1. tapster,
  2. tapu,
  3. taqiyah,
  4. taqlid,
  5. taqueria,
  6. tar and feather,
  7. tar baby,
  8. tar ball,
  9. tar boy,
  10. tar heel


Origin of tar

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 formsnon·tarred, adjectiveun·tarred, adjective

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for tar and feather


/ (tɑː) /


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 tars, tarring or tarred (tr)

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 Formstarry, adjectivetarriness, noun

Word Origin for tar

Old English teoru; related to Old Frisian tera, Old Norse tjara, Middle Low German tere tar, Gothic triu tree


/ (tɑː) /


an informal word for seaman

Word Origin for tar

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

Word Origin and History for tar and feather
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Science definitions for tar and feather


[ tär ]

A dark, oily, viscous material, consisting mainly of hydrocarbons, produced by the destructive distillation of organic substances such as wood, coal, or peat.
See coal tar.
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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with tar and feather

tar and feather

Criticize severely, punish, as in The traditionalists often want to tar and feather those who don't conform. This expression alludes to a former brutal punishment in which a person was smeared with tar and covered with feathers, which then stuck. It was first used as a punishment for theft in the English navy, recorded in the Ordinance of Richard I in 1189, and by the mid-1700s had become mob practice. The figurative usage dates from the mid-1800s.


In addition to the idiom beginning with tar

  • tar and feather

also see:

  • beat the living daylights (tar) out of
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.