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[steyn] /steɪn/
a discoloration produced by foreign matter having penetrated into or chemically reacted with a material; a spot not easily removed.
a natural spot or patch of color different from that of the basic color, as on the body of an animal.
a cause of reproach; stigma; blemish:
a stain on one's reputation.
coloration produced by a dye that penetrates a substance, as wood.
a dye made into a solution for coloring woods, textiles, etc.
a reagent or dye used in treating a specimen for microscopic examination.
verb (used with object)
to discolor with spots or streaks of foreign matter.
to bring reproach or dishonor upon; blemish.
to sully with guilt or infamy; corrupt.
to color or dye (wood, cloth, etc.) by any of various processes that change or react with the substance chemically.
to color with something that penetrates the substance.
to treat (a microscopic specimen) with some reagent or dye in order to color the whole or parts and so give distinctness, contrast of tissues, etc.
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 forms
stainable, adjective
stainability, stainableness, noun
stainably, adverb
stainer, noun
destainer, noun
nonstainable, adjective
nonstainer, noun
nonstaining, adjective
restain, verb
understain, noun
understain, verb (used with object)
well-stained, adjective
1, 3. mark, imperfection, blot. 3. taint. 7. spot, streak, soil, dirty. 8. sully, taint, tarnish, disgrace, dishonor, debase, defile, contaminate, pollute. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for stain
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Probably the address, bunglingly adjusted on the side instead of the top, or else a stain of mud from the late rough drive.

    Idle Hour Stories Eugenia Dunlap Potts
  • To which she added another name, which we do not care to stain our paper with.

    Joseph Andrews Vol. 1 Henry Fielding
  • Of course by “moral qualities,” a character without spot or stain is not intended: we may take that for granted.

  • Jared Wiley, the deputy, was talking to a group near the stain, explaining.

    The Gentleman From Indiana Booth Tarkington
  • He immediately demanded the cause of the stain on it, and she hesitated, at a loss what reply to make.

    Bluebeard Clifton Johnson
British Dictionary definitions for stain


verb (mainly transitive)
to mark or discolour with patches of something that dirties: the dress was stained with coffee
to dye with a penetrating dyestuff or pigment
to bring disgrace or shame on: to stain someone's honour
to colour (specimens) for microscopic study by treatment with a dye or similar reagent
(intransitive) to produce indelible marks or discoloration: does 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 Forms
stainable, adjective
stainability, noun
stainer, noun
Word Origin
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
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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
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stain in Medicine

stain (stān)

  1. A reagent or dye that is used for staining microscopic specimens.

  2. A procedure in which a dye or a combination of dyes and reagents is used to color the constituents of cells and tissues.

v. stained, stain·ing, stains
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.
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