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

transitive verb

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


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

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
But Senate Republicans are also tarnishing the GOP brand in ways that go far beyond McConnell’s shaky public appearances that make fellow octogenarian Biden seem youthful in comparison. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, 25 Sep. 2023 Their World Cup victory is not tarnished — that would be the wrong word — but their memories of it will be, their glory always carrying with it an undercurrent of anguish. Rory Smith, New York Times, 22 Sep. 2023 Sessions pointed to the two impeachments of Donald Trump, accusing Democrats led by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi of shooting first and aiming later in their zeal to tarnish him. Joseph Morton, Dallas News, 14 Sep. 2023 Advertisement Soccer Commentary: Bruce Arena’s ugly exit from MLS shouldn’t tarnish his immense legacy Sept. 10, 2023 FC Dallas took a gamble anyway, using a second-round pick on Hollingshead. Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, 15 Sep. 2023 Some of the luster surrounding this matchup has been tarnished by the injury to New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers. OK, more than some. David Moore, Dallas News, 15 Sep. 2023 For Woodward, the secret to an effective brand strategy lies in deftly walking the tightrope - harnessing the boundless power of social media while steering clear of the potential pitfalls that could tarnish the brand's reputation. Maria Williams, USA TODAY, 19 Aug. 2023 Feinstein now risks tarnishing her impressive legacy by refusing to walk away. Tori Otten, The New Republic, 28 July 2023 Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has tarnished Russia’s reputation in Europe and the United States, raising doubts about his regime’s competence. Michael Kimmage and Hanna Notte, Foreign Affairs, 1 Sep. 2023
A little tarnish keeps it from feeling too fussy or precious. 68 of 77 Dress Up Pumpkins No mess here. Southern Living Editors, Southern Living, 4 Sep. 2023 Try baking soda: For heavier tarnish, mix three parts baking soda to one part water. Lauren Smith McDonough and Carolyn Forte, Good Housekeeping, 20 Jan. 2021 While Randazzo and former FirstEnergy executives have not been charged with any crimes to date, the lawmakers most likely to carry the tarnish from Householder’s dirty dealing aren’t actually that beholden to Ohio voters. Sarah Stankorb, The New Republic, 29 June 2023 Thanks to the adjustable double straps, the top is easy to loosen or tighten depending on your preferences and the swimsuit is adorned with gold hardware that doesn’t dig into the skin or tarnish quickly. Anna Popp, Travel + Leisure, 25 May 2023 Appearing as yellowy-brown and sometimes even black marks, tarnish is much easier to deal with than rust. Kate McGregor, House Beautiful, 14 Apr. 2023 The tarnish still sticks to Cadillac. Eric Tingwall, Car and Driver, 1 July 2020 Previous coverage:Could a dog toy tarnish Jack Daniel's image? Alexandra Hardle, The Arizona Republic, 24 Mar. 2023 Baking soda: For heavier tarnish, mix three parts baking soda to one part water. Lauren Smith McDonough, Good Housekeeping, 28 Feb. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'tarnish.' 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 ternysshen, from Middle French terniss-, stem of ternir, probably of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German tarnan to hide

First Known Use


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


1684, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near tarnish

Cite this Entry

“Tarnish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tarnish. Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
tar·​nish ˈtär-nish How to pronounce tarnish (audio)
: to make or become dull, dim, or discolored
silver tarnishes
: to bring disgrace or cast doubt on
tarnished the family's good name


2 of 2 noun
: something that tarnishes
especially : a film of chemically changed material on the surface of a metal (as silver)

More from Merriam-Webster on tarnish

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