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See also: Tarn 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 mountain 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 tjern (small forest or mountain lake) (Norwegian Nynorsk tjern, tjørn), Swedish tjärn (small forest lake).


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tarn (plural tarns)

  1. (Northern England) A small mountain lake, especially in Northern England. [from late 14th c.]
    • 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.: 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.
  2. (US (Montana)) One of many small mountain lakes or ponds.

Alternative forms[edit]



  1. ^ terne, n(1).” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 22 November 2017.
  2. ^ tarn” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2018.

Further reading[edit]