1 [tahr]
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, tarring.
to smear or cover with or as if with tar.
of or characteristic of tar.
covered or smeared with tar; tarred.
beat/knock/whale the tar out of, Informal. to beat mercilessly: The thief had knocked the tar out of the old man and left him for dead.
tar and feather,
to coat (a person) with tar and feathers as a punishment or humiliation.
to punish severely: She should be tarred and feathered for what she has done.
tarred with the same brush, possessing the same shortcomings or guilty of the same misdeeds: The whole family is tarred with the same brush.

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

nontarred, adjective
untarred, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged


2 [tahr]
noun Informal.
a sailor.

1740–50; perhaps short for tarpaulin

seafarer, gob. See sailor.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
tar1 (tɑː)
1.  any of various dark viscid substances obtained by the destructive distillation of organic matter such as coal, wood, or peat
2.  another name for coal tar
vb , tars, tarring, tarred
3.  to coat with tar
4.  tar and feather to punish by smearing tar and feathers over (someone)
5.  tarred with the same brush regarded as having the same faults
[Old English teoru; related to Old Frisian tera, Old Norse tjara, Middle Low German tere tar, Gothic triu tree]

tar2 (tɑː)
an informal word for seaman
[C17: short for tarpaulin]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

a viscous liquid, O.E. teoru, teru, lit. "the pitch of (certain kinds of) trees," from P.Gmc. *terwo- (cf. O.N. tjara, O.Fris. tera, M.Du. tar, Du. teer, Ger. Teer), probably a derivation of *trewo-, from PIE *drew- "tree" (cf. Skt. daru "wood;" Lith. darva "pine wood;" Gk. dory "beam, shaft of a spear,"
drys "tree, oak;" Goth. triu, O.E. treow "tree;" see tree). Tar baby is from an 1881 "Uncle Remus" story by Joel Chandler Harris. Tarheel for "North Carolina resident" first recorded 1864, probably from the gummy resin of pine woods. Tar water, an infusion of tar in cold water, was popular as a remedy from c.1740 through late 18c.

"sailor," 1676, probably a special use of tar (n.1), which was a staple for waterproofing aboard old ships (sailors also being jocularly called knights of the tarbrush); or possibly a shortened form of tarpaulin, which was recorded as a nickname
for a sailor in 1647, from the tarpaulin garments they wore.

in tar and feather, 1769. A mob action in U.S. in Revolutionary times and several decades thereafter. Originally it had been imposed by an ordinance of Richard I (1189) as punishment in the navy for theft. Among other applications over the years was its use in 1623 by a bishop on "a party of incontinent
friars and nuns" [OED], but not until 1769 was the verbal phrase attested.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
tar   (tär)  Pronunciation Key 
  1. A dark, oily, viscous material, consisting mainly of hydrocarbons, produced by the destructive distillation of organic substances such as wood, coal, or peat.

  2. See coal tar.

  3. 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 © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Computing Dictionary

tar definition

file format
("Tape ARchive", following ar) Unix's general purpose archive utility and the file format it uses. Tar was originally intended for use with magnetic tape but, though it has several command line options related to tape, it is now used more often for packaging files together on other media, e.g. for distribution via the Internet.
The resulting archive, a "tar file" (humourously, "tarball") is often compressed, using gzip or some other form of compression (see tar and feather).
There is a GNU version of tar called gnutar with several improvements over the standard versions.
Filename extension: .tar
MIME type: unregistered, but commonly application/x-tar
Unix manual page: tar(1).
Compare shar, zip.
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010 http://foldoc.org
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


In addition to the idiom beginning with tar, also see beat the living daylights (tar) out of.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Encyclopedia Britannica


(Iranian: "string"), long-necked lute descended from the tanbur of Sasanian Iran and known in a variety of forms throughout the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Its name traditionally signified the number of strings employed-e.g., dutar ("two-strings"), setar ("three-strings"), and cartar ("four-strings")-but this is no longer true, as the sitar of India has up to seven strings. The body of the tar is hollowed out of a single piece of wood and is rounded out in two bulges so that the membrane-covered belly is like a figure 8 or hourglass. The instrument, which is played with a small metal pick, has movable frets and lateral pegs for the metal strings that are rib-fastened. The word tar is also a generic term for Middle Eastern tambourines.

Learn more about tar with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences for tar
It also contains considerably larger amounts of tar and nicotine.
It was boiled in great caldrons, together with tar, tallow and oak bark.
Synthetic particulate filters remove some of the tar before it reaches the smoker.
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