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tainted; tainting; taints

transitive verb

: to contaminate morally : corrupt
scholarship tainted by envy
: to affect with putrefaction : spoil
: to touch or affect slightly with something bad
persons tainted with prejudice

intransitive verb

: to become affected with putrefaction : spoil
obsolete : to become weak


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noun (1)

plural taints
: a contaminating mark or influence
the taint of scandal
taintless adjective


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noun (2)

plural taints
vulgar slang
: the area between the anus and the posterior part of the external genitalia : perineum
Choose the Right Synonym for taint

contaminate, taint, pollute, defile mean to make impure or unclean.

contaminate implies intrusion of or contact with dirt or foulness from an outside source.

water contaminated by industrial wastes

taint stresses the loss of purity or cleanliness that follows contamination.

tainted meat
a politician's tainted reputation

pollute, sometimes interchangeable with contaminate, distinctively may imply that the process which begins with contamination is complete and that what was pure or clean has been made foul, poisoned, or filthy.

the polluted waters of the river

defile implies befouling of what could or should have been kept clean and pure or held sacred and commonly suggests violation or desecration.

defile a hero's memory with slanderous innuendo

Examples of taint in a Sentence

Verb criticism of her sister's singing that was tainted by envy a tendency toward conceitedness taints the athlete's status as a role model Noun (1) that rare political campaign that wasn't marred by the taint of false accusations
Recent Examples on the Web
Nor was it tainted for his wife's trial, which ended in guilty verdicts on all four counts, the prosecution maintains. Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press, 16 Feb. 2024 Former President Donald Trump and his allies have repeatedly alleged without evidence that the country’s elections systems are tainted by widespread fraud and malfeasance, and many of his supporters have latched onto such claims to contest his 2020 defeat to President Joe Biden. Max Greenwood, Miami Herald, 15 Feb. 2024 Federal Reserve Governor Christopher Waller said large revisions in data are tainting his assessments of how the economy is doing. Elisabeth Buchwald, CNN, 31 Jan. 2024 However, they're forever tainted for getting smoked by Seattle in the Super Bowl. Nate Davis, USA TODAY, 30 Jan. 2024 But the 72-year-old’s newfound success is tainted with controversy. TIME, 14 Feb. 2024 Starmer vowed to repair relations with Britain’s Jewish community and vowed to root out antisemitism that was alleged to have tainted the party under Corbyn, a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause. Danielle Wallace, Fox News, 13 Feb. 2024 The affair allegations threaten to taint the prosecution, with the Republican primary front-runner and others seizing on the claims to attack the case and Wade’s qualifications as a prosecutor. Kate Brumback, Fortune, 23 Jan. 2024 Cantaloupes tainted with salmonella have been linked to six deaths, in addition to more than 400 illnesses across 44 states in recent months, the CDC said in its latest notice. Elizabeth Napolitano, CBS News, 22 Jan. 2024
This one went smoothly — no claims of rampant rigging, no significant taint of skulduggery — due in large part to the defeat of deepfakes, democracy’s newest enemy. Michael Rogers, Twin Cities, 14 Jan. 2024 There were about 12,000 gallons of Pinot Noir that the winery deemed to be undrinkable because of smoke taint, and fortunately Sardell was able to distill it into brandy that the winemaking team fell in love with. Jonah Flicker, Robb Report, 29 Jan. 2024 Yeah, the show has visually referenced the Dark One's taint (on saidin! Andrew Cunningham & Lee Hutchinson, Ars Technica, 22 Sep. 2023 This latest misadventure should provide more incentive for the Supreme Court to rule on the underlying questions at issue, and ensure that these extremely consequential ballot decisions are influenced by much more than a taint of legality. The Editors, National Review, 30 Dec. 2023 Adults with iPhones have been known to privately snicker to one another when a green bubble taints a group chat. Brian X. Chen, New York Times, 29 Nov. 2023 His sudden departure over a previously undisclosed romantic relationship taints that legacy. Alexander Gladstone, WSJ, 19 Oct. 2023 The film has always had the taint of a vanity project and remains, as a result, vaguely embarrassing. Gal Beckerman, The Atlantic, 7 Nov. 2023 The commingling of real and unreal taints all of it; if neither images or audio can be believed, then the nonfiction genre is hopelessly compromised. Mia Galuppo, The Hollywood Reporter, 27 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'taint.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English teynten to color & taynten to attaint; Middle English teynten, from Anglo-French teinter, from teint, past participle of teindre, from Latin tingere; Middle English taynten, short for attaynten — more at tinge, attain

Noun (2)

respelling of 'tain't, contraction of it ain't, implying that this area of the body is neither the anus nor the genitalia

First Known Use


1573, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Noun (1)

1601, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

1955, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of taint was in 1573

Dictionary Entries Near taint

Cite this Entry

“Taint.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/taint. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
: to touch or affect slightly with something bad


2 of 2 noun
: a trace of decay : stain
: a spoiling influence
taintless adjective

Legal Definition


transitive verb
: to damage or destroy the validity of
evidence tainted by an illegal search
taint noun

More from Merriam-Webster on taint

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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