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From Middle English ternysshen, a borrowing from Old French terniss-, stem of ternir (to make dim, make wan), from Frankish *tarnijan (to cover up, conceal, hide), from Proto-Germanic *darnijaną (to conceal), from Proto-Indo-European *dʰer- (to hold, hold tight, support). Cognate with Old High German *tarnjan, tarnen (to hide, cover up, conceal) (Modern German tarnen), Old English dyrnan, diernan (to keep secret, conceal, hide, restrain, repress). More at dern, darn.


  • IPA(key): /ˈtɑɹnɪʃ/
  • (file)


tarnish (usually uncountable, plural tarnishes)

  1. Oxidation or discoloration, especially of a decorative metal exposed to air.
    • 1918, Hannah Teresa Rowley, ‎Mrs. Helen Louise (Wales) Farrell, Principles of Chemistry Applied to the Household
      Precipitated calcium carbonate, a very fine powdery form, is used as a basis for many tooth powders and pastes. As whiting it finds a wide use in cleaning metals of their tarnishes.



tarnish (third-person singular simple present tarnishes, present participle tarnishing, simple past and past participle tarnished)

  1. (intransitive) To oxidize or discolor due to oxidation.
    Careful storage of silver will prevent it from tarnishing.
  2. (transitive) To soil, sully, damage or compromise
    He is afraid that he will tarnish his reputation if he disagrees.
  3. (intransitive, figuratively) To lose its lustre or attraction; to become dull.
    • (Can we date this quote by Dryden and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      Till thy fresh glories, which now shine so bright, / Grow stale and tarnish with our daily sight.