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[tahr-nish] /ˈtɑr nɪʃ/
verb (used with object)
to dull the luster of (a metallic surface), especially by oxidation; discolor.
to diminish or destroy the purity of; stain; sully:
The scandal tarnished his reputation.
verb (used without object)
to grow dull or discolored; lose luster.
to become sullied.
a tarnished coating.
tarnished condition; discoloration; alteration of the luster of a metal.
a stain or blemish.
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
Related forms
tarnishable, adjective
antitarnish, adjective
antitarnishing, adjective
nontarnishable, adjective
nontarnished, adjective
nontarnishing, adjective
untarnishable, adjective
untarnished, adjective
untarnishing, adjective
2. taint, blemish, soil.
1. brighten. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for tarnished
  • Blue jays are sometimes known to eat eggs or nestlings, and it is this practice that has tarnished their reputation.
  • The pursuit of knowledge for the benefit of mankind ought not be messed up or tarnished by individual glory.
  • The limited number of flights a year, the cost, etc tarnished the program's promise in many ways.
  • In a country where corruption is pervasive, the tarnished image of private education has led to a growing public wariness.
  • One way to potentially fix that tarnished image: replace some of those workers with robots.
  • If it turns out they find something sketchy, his credibility will be forever tarnished, as will the climate change debate.
  • Defamation law, while necessary to protect wrongly tarnished reputations, raises well-known threats to freedom of speech.
  • He sees that monument as slightly tarnished, by inflation and by the suggestion of incompleteness.
  • But it's also been tarnished by the elites themselves, in the way that the media and political establishments have treated her.
  • The reputation of a broadly good central-bank governor has been tarnished.
British Dictionary definitions for tarnished


to lose or cause to lose the shine, esp by exposure to air or moisture resulting in surface oxidation; discolour: silver tarnishes quickly
to stain or become stained; taint or spoil: a fraud that tarnished his reputation
a tarnished condition, surface, or film
Derived Forms
tarnishable, adjective
tarnisher, noun
Word Origin
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
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for tarnished



1590s, from present participle stem of Middle French ternir "dull the luster or brightness of, make dim" (15c.), probably from Old French terne (adj.) "dull, dark," from a Germanic source cognate with Old High German tarnjan "to conceal, hide," Old English dyrnan "to hide, darken," from Proto-Germanic *darnjaz (see dern). Figurative sense is from 1690s. Related: Tarnished; tarnishing.


1713, from tarnish (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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