From Middle English terne, tarne (“lake; pond, pool”), from Old Norse tjǫrn (“a small 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 Bokmål tjern (“small forest or mountain lake”) (Norwegian Nynorsk tjern, tjørn), Swedish tjärn (“small forest lake”).
- (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /tɑːn/
- (General American) IPA(key): /tɑɹn/, [tɝn]
- Rhymes: -ɑː(ɹ)n
- Homophone: turn (some US dialects)
Audio (UK) (file)
tarn (plural tarns)
- (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.: 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.
- 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.
- (US, chiefly Montana) One of many small mountain lakes or ponds.
- 1874 August 20, Mortimer Kerry, “Zoology of the Northwest: The Cervidæ”, in Charles Hallock, editor, Forest and Stream: A Weekly Journal of Field and Aquatic Sports, Practical Natural History, Fish Culture, Protection of Game, Preservation of Forests, and the Inculcation in Men and Women of a Healthy Interest in Out-door Recreation and Study, volume 3, number 2, New York, N.Y.: Published by Forest and Stream Publishing Company, 17 Chatham Street, published 1875, OCLC 1569747, page 18, column 2:
- It [the caribou] makes a fine, bold study on the foreground of an evening scene among the mountain tarns of Northern Idaho, as it fulfils the ideal description of the stag given by [Walter] Scott and other writers.
- 2002, Jennifer Sinor, “Time, Days, and Page”, in The Extraordinary Work of Ordinary Writing: Annie Ray’s Diary, Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press, →ISBN, page 86:
- Have you ever been swimming in glacial water – water turned milky blue or deep maroon by minerals and deposits seized by the glacier as it ponderously made its way across a continent? You would have been high atop a mountain, maybe in the Canadian Rockies or in Montana, where glaciers, now in retreat, still press down on the earth's crust. And it would have been in the summer – late August perhaps – the sun warm and still and bright, making you feel as if a dip in this remote glacial tarn is just what your tired body needs at this point in your day.
- 2013, Gordon Sullivan; Cathie Sullivan, Photographing Montana: Where to Find Perfect Shots and How to Take Them, Woodstock, Vt.: The Countryman Press, →ISBN, page 39:
- Off to either side of the road [Beartooth Highway], unforgettable mountain scenes arise beneath crisp mountain skies. Here is alpine country at its best, complete with lakes and tarns set amid truly rugged promontories.