[ tahr-nish ]
See synonyms for tarnish on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object)
  1. to dull the luster of (a metallic surface), especially by oxidation; discolor.

  2. to diminish or destroy the purity of; stain; sully: The scandal tarnished his reputation.

verb (used without object)
  1. to grow dull or discolored; lose luster.

  2. to become sullied.

  1. a tarnished coating.

  2. tarnished condition; discoloration; alteration of the luster of a metal.

  1. a stain or blemish.

Origin of tarnish

1590–1600; <Middle French terniss-, long stem of ternir to dull, deaden, derivative of terne dull, wan <Germanic; compare Old High German tarni, cognate with Old Saxon derni,Old English dierne hidden, obscure; see -ish2

Other words for tarnish

Opposites for tarnish

Other words from tarnish

  • tar·nish·a·ble, adjective
  • an·ti·tar·nish, adjective
  • an·ti·tar·nish·ing, adjective
  • non·tar·nish·a·ble, adjective
  • non·tar·nished, adjective
  • non·tar·nish·ing, adjective
  • un·tar·nish·a·ble, adjective
  • un·tar·nished, adjective
  • un·tar·nish·ing, adjective

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

How to use tarnish in a sentence

  • In a few minutes, however, he looked at the blade of his knife and saw that it was slightly tarnished.

    The Border Rifles | Gustave Aimard
  • The tone of the voice would last when the gold of all else became faded or tarnished.

  • It is a real misfortune that many good words have been tarnished by the handling of the illiterate.

    English: Composition and Literature | W. F. (William Franklin) Webster
  • The battle of Bull Run stung the loyal masses of the North, and filled them with a determination to redeem their tarnished honor.

    The Boys of '61 | Charles Carleton Coffin.
  • Fabio took the necklace—the pearls he fancied looked tarnished—and did as his wife had directed.

British Dictionary definitions for tarnish


/ (ˈtɑːnɪʃ) /

  1. to lose or cause to lose the shine, esp by exposure to air or moisture resulting in surface oxidation; discolour: silver tarnishes quickly

  2. to stain or become stained; taint or spoil: a fraud that tarnished his reputation

  1. a tarnished condition, surface, or film

Origin of tarnish

C16: from Old French ternir to make dull, from terne lustreless, of Germanic origin; related to Old High German tarnen to conceal, Old English dierne hidden

Derived forms of tarnish

  • tarnishable, adjective
  • tarnisher, noun

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