tar·​nish | \ ˈtär-nish How to pronounce tarnish (audio) \
tarnished; tarnishing; tarnishes

Definition of tarnish

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to dull or destroy the luster of by or as if by air, dust, or dirt : soil, stain
2a : to detract from the good quality of : vitiate his fine dreams now slightly tarnished
b : to bring disgrace on : sully the scandal has tarnished his reputation



Definition of tarnish (Entry 2 of 2)

: something that tarnishes especially : a film of chemically altered material on the surface of a metal (such as silver)

Other Words from tarnish


tarnishable \ ˈtär-​ni-​shə-​bəl How to pronounce tarnish (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for tarnish

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of tarnish in a Sentence

Verb Some foods will tarnish silver. The scandal tarnished his reputation. Noun a polish that removes tarnish
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Chinese-American designer Sonia Hou started her business in an effort to make affordable yet high-quality jewelry that didn't tarnish, flake, or irritate her skin. Jennifer Chan, PEOPLE.com, 8 May 2022 Dylan Hernández says Trevor Bauer overshadowed the Dodgers win Sunday and continues to tarnish the team’s reputation. Los Angeles Times, 23 Apr. 2022 Xi, as the country’s dominant political figure, has also been intimately connected to zero COVID, so an uncontrolled outbreak could tarnish him politically and personally. Michael Schuman, The Atlantic, 18 Apr. 2022 Aside from the usual scandals that can tarnish a reputation, stardom in South Korea means dating is usually forbidden. Joan Macdonald, Forbes, 25 Apr. 2022 At a briefing on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian suggested any withdrawal of American envoys or their families would be done to tarnish Beijing’s hosting of the Winter Olympics, which start next week. Bill Faries, Bloomberg.com, 27 Jan. 2022 Those moves would represent major escalations in the battle over the investigation, which most Republicans have characterized as a partisan exercise intended to tarnish Mr. Trump and their party. Luke Broadwater, New York Times, 12 Jan. 2022 This caused the company to have to offer refunds as a mea culpa, and really started to tarnish the company's brand and reputation, as negative customer reviews started to flood into the website. George Deeb, Forbes, 5 Jan. 2022 The books will be put in a freezer to avoid mold and the silver coin, which started to tarnish when the box was open, will be kept in a dry place to limit deterioration. NBC News, 23 Dec. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun To clean away the tarnish, make this safe, nontoxic cleaning solution: squeeze the juice of one lemon into a small bowl. Joseph Truini, Popular Mechanics, 16 Feb. 2022 If there's still some residual tarnish, repeat the poultice treatment. Joseph Truini, Popular Mechanics, 16 Feb. 2022 The combination of bright copper with patches of tarnish is far less attractive than copper with a more even patina. Washington Post, 10 Jan. 2022 So when one journalist or outlet makes questionable choices, the tarnish can easily spread to others. Maria Puente, USA TODAY, 10 Aug. 2021 His father did not know about all these eyes, all over the world, seeing the laminate wood grain of his dresser top, the cloudy tarnish on the silver cross. Sarah Braunstei, The New Yorker, 2 Aug. 2021 The sheen, easy application and no-tarnish factor contribute to a pewter-type finish. Brenda Yenke, cleveland, 20 May 2021 And if that only took a little of the luster off Nolan’s legacy, his tiff with Jon Daniels applied the tarnish. Kevin Sherrington, Dallas News, 11 May 2021 The final question is whether these efforts to be more accessible can shine off the tarnish that is on the Royal brand. Peter Suciu, Forbes, 6 May 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tarnish.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of tarnish


15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


1684, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tarnish


Middle English ternysshen, from Middle French terniss-, stem of ternir, probably of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German tarnan to hide

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The first known use of tarnish was in the 15th century

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Dictionary Entries Near tarnish



tarnished plant bug

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Last Updated

13 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Tarnish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tarnish. Accessed 16 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for tarnish


tar·​nish | \ ˈtär-nish How to pronounce tarnish (audio) \
tarnished; tarnishing

Kids Definition of tarnish

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to make or become dull, dim, or discolored
2 : to bring disgrace or ruin The scandal tarnished his reputation.



Kids Definition of tarnish (Entry 2 of 2)

: a surface coating formed during tarnishing

More from Merriam-Webster on tarnish

Nglish: Translation of tarnish for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tarnish for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about tarnish


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