From Middle English terne, tarne (“lake; pond, pool”), from Old Norse tjǫrn (“a small mountain lake without tributaries”), from Proto-Germanic *ternō (“water hole”), 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 tjern (“small forest or mountain lake”) (Norwegian Nynorsk tjern, tjørn), Swedish tjärn (“small forest lake”).
- (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /tɑː(ɹ)n/
- (General American) IPA(key): /tɑɹn/, [tɝn]
- Rhymes: -ɑː(r)n
- Homophone: turn (some US dialects)
tarn (plural tarns)
- (Northern England) A small mountain lake, especially in Northern England. [from late 14th c.]
1839, 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.: Published by William E. Burton, Dock Street, opposite the Exchange, 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.
- (US (Montana)) One of many small mountain lakes or ponds.