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)

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb But Chuck also knows this looks bad and could tarnish his whole career. Kyle Fowle, EW.com, 6 Sep. 2021 But even in the broader comedic scenes, there’s a quiet background threat throughout the trip: Hope, always a phone call away, listening closely for a whiff of anything that could possibly tarnish Moordale’s image. Ben Rosenstock, Vulture, 20 Sep. 2021 Nothing that has followed -- nothing -- can tarnish your honor or diminish your accomplishments. ABC News, 11 Sep. 2021 This reckless act by Newsom did more than anything else to tarnish his personal image. Los Angeles Times, 23 Aug. 2021 No need to push it for now or potentially let Otto tarnish the kind of debut the Rangers haven’t had in nearly 40 years. Evan Grant, Dallas News, 27 Aug. 2021 Silver was historically ruled out because of its softness and its tendency to tarnish. Carol Besler, Forbes, 18 May 2021 The vote was a stark display of loyalty to former President Donald J. Trump and political self-interest by Republicans determined to shield themselves from an inquiry that could tarnish their party. New York Times, 28 May 2021 Maybe this season won’t tarnish how Cubs fans remember him, but as poor starts continue to pile up for Arrieta, perhaps that becomes harder to avoid even for a legendary pitcher. Meghan Montemurro, chicagotribune.com, 12 Aug. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 Bulldogs coach Mark Few refused to let Monday night's loss tarnish a remarkable 2020-21 season. NBC News, 5 Apr. 2021 But the damage, and the image tarnish, had been done. Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press, 1 Feb. 2021 Dip a soft cloth in the solution and use it to rub the silver to remove the tarnish. Lauren Smith Mcdonough And Carolyn Forte, Good Housekeeping, 20 Jan. 2021

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.

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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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Time Traveler for tarnish

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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

16 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tarnish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tarnish. Accessed 27 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for tarnish



English Language Learners Definition of tarnish

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to become or cause (metal) to become dull and not shiny
: to damage or ruin the good quality of (something, such as a person's reputation, image, etc.)



English Language Learners Definition of tarnish (Entry 2 of 2)

: a thin layer on the surface of metal which makes the metal look dull


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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