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From Middle French terniss-, stem of ternir (to make dull, deaden, tarnish), from Old French ternir (to make dim, make wan), from Frankish *tarnjan (to cover up, conceal, hide), from Proto-Germanic *darnijaną (to conceal), from Proto-Indo-European *dher(ǝ)-, *dhrē- (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.



tarnish (uncountable)

  1. Oxidation or discoloration, especially of a decorative metal exposed to air.



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.
    • Dryden
      Till thy fresh glories, which now shine so bright, / Grow stale and tarnish with our daily sight.