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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.
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
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 untarnished
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Guinevere's moral character is held to be untarnished, even by her liaison with Lancelot.

  • She was the very dawn of life herself, untarnished, unfatigued, unashamed.

    Margarita's Soul Ingraham Lovell
  • Poverty at Albany had appalled him, but as yet his soul had been untarnished.

    Fairfax and His Pride Marie Van Vorst
  • Mr. Clavering, for all I know, is a gentleman of untarnished reputation.

    The Leavenworth Case Anna Katherine Green
  • They have ever held an honorable place and untarnished name among men; our grandsire was enlisted under Washington.

  • His own honour was so untarnished that he refused to believe less of others.

    The Burglars' Club Henry A. Hering
  • So, when he left the store in the evening, no matter how his legs ached, his head was clear and untarnished.

    Where the Blue Begins Christopher Morley
  • It is easier to win spoils from death than to keep them untarnished by life.

  • It was not only untarnished by such knowledge as we brought with 166 us, it was radiant.

    Waiting for Daylight Henry Major Tomlinson
British Dictionary definitions for untarnished


(of silver, etc) not tarnished or discoloured
not tainted or spoiled: untarnished by graffiti


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
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for untarnished



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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