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From Middle English blemisshen, blemissen, from Old French blemiss-, stem of Old French blemir, blesmir (make pale, injure, wound, bruise) (French blêmir), from Old Frankish *blesmijan, *blasmijan (to make pale), from Old Frankish *blasmī (pale), from Proto-Germanic *blasaz (white, pale), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰel- (to shine). Cognate with Dutch bles (white spot), German blass (pale), Old English āblered (bare, uncovered, bald, shaven).


  • IPA(key): /ˈblɛmɪʃ/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛmɪʃ
  • Hyphenation: blem‧ish


blemish (plural blemishes)

  1. A small flaw which spoils the appearance of something, a stain, a spot.
    • 1769, Oxford Standard Text, “King James Bible”, in Leviticus, 22, xix:
      Ye shall offer at your own will a male without blemish, of the beeves, of the sheep, or of the goats.
    • 1997, Jean Soler, “5: The Semiotics of Food in the Bible”, in Carole Counihan, Penny Van Esterik, editors, Food and Culture: A Reader, page 61:
      Any foot shape deviating from this model is conceived as a blemish, and the animal is unclean.
    • 2003, A. K. Forrest, “Chapter 6: Surface Defect Detection on Ceramics”, in Mark Graves, Bruce Batchelor, editors, Machine Vision for the Inspection of Natural Products, page 193:
      There are a very large number of types of blemish and the smallest blemish visible to a human can be surprisingly small, for example less than 10μm deep, which may be on the surface of a heavily embossed tile.
    • 2011, Robert Jones, Makeup Makeovers Beauty Bible: Expert Secrets for Stunning Transformations[1], page 119:
      It comes as a surprise to some people, but blemishes can strike at any age. To minimize the appearance of facial blemishes or pimples, use a concealer with a dry texture; it will cling to the blemish better, last throughout the day, and not irritate the skin or initiate more breakouts.
  2. A moral defect; a character flaw.
    • 1825, A Sermon, The Christian Magazine[2], volume 2, page 298:
      As piety is the peculiar ornament of old people, so the want of it is a peculiar blemish in their character.
    • 2003, Todd F. Heatherton, The Social Psychology of Stigma[3], page 103:
      The processes of categorization, stereotyping, discrimination, and self-fulfilling prophecy can also apply to stigmas based on blemishes of individual character.
    • 2008, Annette Baier, Death and Character: Further Reflections on Hume[4], page 46:
      There is no reason to think that the enlivening possible blemish was his hypocritical show of repentance, since there are so many other candidate blemishes to choose among.


Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


blemish (third-person singular simple present blemishes, present participle blemishing, simple past and past participle blemished)

  1. To spoil the appearance of.
    • 1603, Michel de Montaigne, chapter 12, in John Florio, transl., The Essayes [], book II, London: [] Val[entine] Simmes for Edward Blount [], →OCLC:
      we see ordinarie examples by this licence which wonderfully blemisheth the authoritie and lustre of our law, never to stay upon one sentence, but to run from one to another judge, to decide one same case.
    • 2009, Michael A. Kirkman, “Chapter 2: Global Markets fo Processed Potato Products”, in Jaspreet Singh, Lovedeep Kaur, editors, Advances in Potato Chemistry and Technology, page 40:
      Generally, varieties in current use for processing are resilient, if not wholly resistant to blemishing diseases and disorders.
    • 2011, Rob Imrie, Emma Street, Architectural Design and Regulation, unnumbered page:
      I mean it reaches a point of ridiculousness in some regards, and one′s seen actually many good schemes here in San Francisco, for example, that have been blemished by an overly strict adherence to codes.
  2. To tarnish (reputation, character, etc.); to defame.
    • 1600, Francis Vere, Commentaries of the Divers Pieces of Service:
      There had nothing passed betwixt us that might blemish reputation.