Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search
See also: Tarn, tarń, and tårn


Red Tarn, a tarn on the eastern flank of Helvellyn in the Lake District, England, UK


From Middle English terne, tarne (lake; pond, pool),[1] from Old Norse tjǫrn (a small lake without tributaries), from Proto-Germanic *ternō (water hole),[2] perhaps related to *turnaz (bitter, embittered), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *der- (to separate, split; to crack, shatter). The word is cognate with Danish tjern, Faroese tjørn (pond), Icelandic tjörn (pond), Norwegian Bokmål tjern (small forest or mountain lake) (Norwegian Nynorsk tjern, tjørn), Swedish tjärn (small forest lake).



tarn (plural tarns)

  1. (Northern England) A small mountain lake, especially in Northern England. [from late 14th c.]
    • 1802 October 4, S[amuel] T[aylor] Coleridge, “Dejection: An Ode”, in The Morning Post; republished in Henry Nelson Coleridge, editor, The Poetical Works of S. T. Coleridge, volume I (Juvenile Poems; Sibylline Leaves), London: William Pickering, 1834, OCLC 10805513, stanza VII, page 239:
      Thou Wind, that ravest without, / Bare craig, or mountain-tairn, or blasted tree, / Or pine-grove whither woodman never clomb, / Or lonely house, long held the witches' home, / Methinks were fitter instruments for thee, / Mad Lutanist! [footnote: Tairn is a small lake, generally if not always applied to the lakes up in the mountains, and which are the feeders of those in the valleys. []]
    • 1839 September, Edgar A[llan] Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher”, in William E[vans] Burton and Edgar A. Poe, editors, Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, and American Monthly Review, volume V, number III, Philadelphia, Pa.: William E. Burton, [], OCLC 50608419, page 145:
      It was possible, I reflected, that a mere different arrangement of the particulars of the scene [of the House of Usher], of the details of the picture, would be sufficient to modify, or perhaps to annihilate its capacity for sorrowful impression; and, acting upon this idea, I reined my horse to the precipitous brink of a black and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled lustre by the dwelling, and gazed down—but with a shudder even more thrilling than before—upon the re-modelled and inverted images of the gray sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows.
    • 1853, [William] Wordsworth; [Adam] Sedgwick, “Description of the Scenery of the Lakes”, in John Hudson, editor, A Complete Guide to the Lakes, Comprising Minute Directions for the Tourist; with Mr. Wordsworth’s Description of the Scenery of the Country, etc.: And Five Letters on the Geology of the Lake District, by the Rev. Professor Sedgwick, 4th edition, Kendal, Cumbria: Published by John Hudson; London: Longman and Co., and Whittaker and Co.; Liverpool: Webb, Castle-St.; Manchester: Simms and Co., OCLC 315444936, section first (View of the Country as Formed by Nature), page 125:
      Tarns are found in some of the vales, and are numerous upon the mountains. A Tarn, in a Vale, implies, for the most part, that the bed of the vale is not happily formed; that the water of the brooks can neither wholly escape, nor diffuse itself over a large area. Accordingly, in such situtions, Tarns are often surrounded by an unsightly tract of boggy ground; but this is not always the case, []
    • 1976, Linda Dégh; Andrew Vázsonyi, “Legend and Belief”, in Dan Ben-Amos, editor, Folklore Genres (Publications of the American Folklore Society, Bibliographical and Special Series; 26), Austin, Tex.; London: University of Texas Press, →ISBN, part 2 (The Ethnography of Folklore Genres), page 114:
      In another story the remarkable mystery of the umbrella lost at the shores of a tarn and retrieved at the seaside is explained by the underground communication between the two.
  2. (US, chiefly Montana) One of many small mountain lakes or ponds.

Alternative forms[edit]


Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ terne, n.(1).”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 22 November 2017.
  2. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2022), “tarn”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.