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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
As professional leagues in many sports started popping up around the world in the 20th century, the Olympics drew a hard line, disqualifying any athletes who were tainted by accepting filthy lucre. Victor Mather, New York Times, 10 Apr. 2024 But Suu Kyi’s defense of the campaign against the Rohingya didn’t seem to taint her in the eyes of her most ardent Beltway supporters. Timothy McLaughlin, The Atlantic, 4 Apr. 2024 Red tides often taint the water red or brown, hence the name. Kinsey Crowley, USA TODAY, 7 Mar. 2024 If the test spot turns blue, your drink has been tainted. Karen Garcia, Los Angeles Times, 26 Mar. 2024 Where the Bad News Is the Good News: Despite a recession, a shrinking population and politics tainted by corruption, Japan remains remarkably stable and cohesive, with little sense of impending doom or signs of societal discord. Kurt Soller Anu Kumar, New York Times, 18 Mar. 2024 From helping to save New York City during the 1907 panic to pulling a gun on a man who had threatened her son, Hetty Green was a complex character whose legacy has, in many ways, been tainted by biased coverage that focused on her miserliness. Bywill Daniel, Fortune, 17 Mar. 2024 Even more insidious is the trend to deliberately taint supplies such as counterfeit pills, crudely pressed and sold online or via SnapChat. Lisa M. Krieger, The Mercury News, 17 Mar. 2024 Former Justice Department prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said on MSNBC that the way forward is for Willis to voluntarily recuse herself so that anything that happens to her in terms of ethics doesn't taint the case. Aysha Bagchi, USA TODAY, 18 Mar. 2024
Even when told the history of the slogan, Mr. Trump shrugged off the taint and embraced it as a pithy expression of his worldview. Peter Baker, New York Times, 15 Feb. 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

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 19 Apr. 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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