Definition of tarnish in US English:



  • 1Lose or cause to lose luster, especially as a result of exposure to air or moisture.

    no object ‘silver tarnishes too easily’
    with object ‘lemon juice would tarnish the gilded metal’
    • ‘It was more tarnished metal than glass, and was covered in a sheen of dried soap.’
    • ‘Metals tarnish when their surface atoms react with gaseous substances in the air.’
    • ‘The metal is tarnished, so I get the toothpaste from the bathroom and put some on my finger.’
    • ‘The platinum jewellery has a lustre which is unique and does not fade or get tarnished.’
    • ‘Blackened lead white can be treated by oxidizing but oxygen will tarnish any silver.’
    • ‘The still waters have lost their clarity, tarnished by the ominous clouds that overhang the harbour.’
    • ‘Where I come from, the silver tarnishes when it is exposed to the air.’
    • ‘The jewelers recommend storing your plated pieces in a jewelry box, away from heat and moisture, which can cause tarnishing.’
    • ‘The paintings are made so that, as the silver tarnishes, certain aspects of expression are revealed that would not originally have been seen.’
    • ‘The chain was silver and tarnished in some places, from it hung a small stone.’
    • ‘Suddenly, another tarnished piece of silver came into view, identical to the other one.’
    • ‘It can tarnish silverware and discolor copper and brass utensils.’
    • ‘Once upon a time it had been gilded, but now the gilding seemed to be tarnishing and flaking - evidently no one came in here to touch up these days.’
    • ‘Platinum is a relatively inactive metal that does not corrode or tarnish in air.’
    • ‘The sawed surfaces were coated with an epoxy sealer to keep the copper from tarnishing and to enhance their appearance.’
    • ‘He knew it couldn't actually be silver, it would have tarnished, but he didn't think it was steel or aluminum either.’
    • ‘All of the crockery was chipped, and what little silver they possessed was tarnished to a dull black.’
    • ‘When fresh, some acanthite is brilliant and lustrous but tarnishes to a relatively dull black upon exposure.’
    • ‘Readers reminded us that gold, which does not tarnish or corrode, is used in contacts and connectors in telephones, computers, and other electronic products.’
    • ‘He seldom applied surface decoration other than subtly toned lacquers to protect the metal against tarnishing.’
    become discoloured, discolour, stain, rust, oxidize, corrode, deteriorate
    dull, make dull, dim, blacken, make black, discolour, stain, rust, oxidize, corrode
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Make or become less valuable or respected.
      with object ‘his regime had not been tarnished by human rights abuses’
      • ‘But if the governor proposes anything short of that, he could see his efforts fail in the legislature, tarnishing his image with moderates, even in his own party.’
      • ‘I truly hope that those who were in the wrong feel the guilt they should for tarnishing the school's good name and making the end of the 2005 class's school career so negative.’
      • ‘But all the gold and the glory will be tarnished if basic rights - including free speech - are lacking.’
      • ‘And those who were seemingly immortal in their event, like Moses, probably have the most to lose in that being beaten will tarnish the public's memories of their greatness.’
      • ‘He complained that some aspiring candidates at the forth-coming elections were only bent on tarnishing the image of rugby in Zambia when the sport had gained ground in corporate relationships.’
      • ‘Canis lupus represented the only native species missing from Yellowstone, tarnishing the conservation record of America's ‘crown jewel’.’
      • ‘Only sheer audacity would enable an author to rewrite the history of a nation's seminal figures, tarnishing the name of Judaism's noble ancestors.’
      • ‘Such companies face an increased risk of tarnishing their image by igniting privacy concerns.’
      • ‘The thing about pure causes - that glorious end that justifies despicable means - is that they tarnish so easily in the heat of battle.’
      • ‘But it's nonsense to suggest that they tarnish the lustre of the work that they're following.’
      • ‘With money well invested and his health fine, the 36-year-old champion is considering going out on top rather than fighting until his skills fade and tarnishing his legacy.’
      • ‘The final possibility is that Nike wants to improve Converse shoes and sell higher volumes through discount retailers, instead of tarnishing the Nike image by selling low end Nikes.’
      • ‘Musharraf told a press conference Saturday that he succeeded in selling a positive image of Pakistan abroad and that the attack might have been aimed at tarnishing the gains of his tour.’
      • ‘In science, reputation is all and it is easily tarnished.’
      • ‘The disqualification of Greece's two top sprinters hardly tarnishes the Olympic gold standard as some seem to think.’
      • ‘But that also might be a result of canny marketing: no sponsor would wish her to tarnish her image by playing in - and perhaps losing - too many tournaments.’
      • ‘He's managed to alienate allies with his foreign policy, tarnishing America's image in the world, punting our claims to moral leadership.’
      • ‘Ibrahim, an Egyptian-American democracy activist and academic, was jailed in July for tarnishing Egypt's image abroad and misappropriating funds.’
      • ‘Pasiya threatened legal action against those individuals who are tarnishing the image of his club by associating them with the match-fixing allegations.’
      • ‘He also notes that unofficial appeals often conflate issues of legality and religion, inevitably tarnishing Amnesty's more measured approach.’
      sully, besmirch, blacken, smirch, stain, blemish, blot, taint, soil, befoul, spoil, ruin, dirty, disgrace, mar, damage, defame, calumniate, injure, harm, hurt, undermine, debase, degrade, denigrate, dishonour, stigmatize, vitiate, drag through the mud
      View synonyms


  • 1Dullness of color; loss of brightness.

    • ‘Many modern owners see the coloration as tarnish and clean the surface, but it was probably intended to imitate the Japanese dark-colored alloys shibuichi and shakudo.’
    • ‘Silver can be oxidized to give the effect of tarnish, and this coloration was popular in Europe and North America during the 19th century, when it was also produced by using sulphurs.’
    • ‘Yet sometimes the occasional tarnish can be a pleasing taint.’
    • ‘The crystals are perched on quartz along with rosin-colored sphalerite showing the black tarnish reported by him.’
    • ‘The 2cm chalcopyrite crystals are striated but quite clean, with no tarnish or coating.’
    • ‘Any scale, tarnish, dirt, oil or grease acquired during handling, storage or fabrication must be removed.’
    • ‘Much of the chalcopyrite known to be from the replacement ore bodies of the Argentine vein displays either a dark gray tarnish or a thin coating of another mineral.’
    • ‘That'll take the tarnish off any glamorous finish!’
    • ‘Even with its faded gray tarnish, it was hard to tell what it was.’
    • ‘I held my memories like treasures in a vault and polished them well, terrified that unless I tended them daily they would disappear under the tarnish of time.’
    1. 1.1 A film or stain formed on an exposed surface of a mineral or metal.
      • ‘To remove tarnish from copper pots, rub with lemon halves dipped in salt.’
      • ‘Slightly battered and worn down, it was quite obvious that some of them had been reforged and repaired, judging by the varying degrees of tarnish upon them.’
      • ‘In addition to its many uses in cooking, cream of tartar is one ingredient in an electrochemical method to remove tarnish from silver jewelry and cutlery.’
      • ‘A few minutes later the tarnish on the sword is gone and the markings both written and accidental reflect white into his eyes from the sun gleaming through the top of the window.’
      • ‘I am assuming of course, that the reasoning behind the polish was to inhibit any tarnish that typically forms with copper heatsinks.’
      • ‘They help dissolve hard water deposits from shower doors, mild rust stains and soap film and remove tarnish from brass and copper.’
      • ‘Remove tarnish on silver items by adding some baking soda and a small piece of aluminum foil to boiling water.’
      • ‘They physically scratch off dirt, stains and tarnish via friction as you rub the surface.’
      • ‘To remove heavy tarnish, difficult stains and corrosion: wash in hot, soapy water or a weak ammonia and water solution and rinse.’
      • ‘The salt lifts the grime and the lemon juice cuts through the tarnish.’
      • ‘Acids dissolve gummy buildup and eat away tarnish.’
      • ‘The metal is quickly corroded by sulphur compounds in vegetables and egg yolks, forming a black tarnish of silver sulphide.’
      • ‘The metal polish comes in a bottle or pre-moistened towelettes, contains no ammonia or abrasives and removes tarnish, rust, water stains, fingerprints and oxidation.’
      • ‘Remove tarnish with a commercial pewter polish or a paste made of rotten-stone and boiled linseed oil or olive oil.’
      • ‘The polish removes light rust, tarnish and carbon build-up and leaves a thin protective barrier to prevent smudges and powder fouling from sticking to the finish.’
      • ‘Neither flammable or easily corroded, it had the advantage that any tarnish could be easily polished off, keeping the graduations highly visible.’
      • ‘To remove tarnish from silverware, sprinkle baking soda on a damp cloth and rub it on the silverware until tarnish is gone.’
      • ‘Store metal jewellery in resealable plastic or jewellery bags with silica-gel sachets to prevent tarnish.’
      discoloration, oxidation, rust, tarnishing, blackening, film, patina
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 Damage or harm done to something.
      • ‘Back now to the U.N. ‘oil for food’ flap and the tarnish it's threatening to leave on Kofi Annan's leadership.’
      • ‘My test car didn't, and if Alfa's new German management succeeds in its aim, the lingering tarnish of unreliability will finally be erased from the glamorous serpent-and-cross badge.’
      • ‘Through them it was possible to portray the spiritual qualities of man's nature, cleansed of the tarnish of everyday life, and to fix the eternal values of love and beauty in a world that was far removed from the present.’
      • ‘You weren't put off by the tarnish on the Revlon brand or the troubled organization?’
      • ‘"They already have to remove the tarnish this incident has left on them," she says.’
      • ‘To him there remains plenty of time for the Spurs to get it right, to cleanse the tarnish of an uneven regular season.’
      • ‘Although this bodes well for him, it doesn't chip away at the tarnish the troubled superstar brings to professional basketball.’
      • ‘I'm very confident that nothing will take place - anything that will hinder this game, or put a tarnish on this game.’
      • ‘Slowly but surely, with this influence, Jeanne begins to gain some prestige and some of the tarnish of her name begins to fade away.’
      • ‘In respect of the latter, there is a slight tarnish: he fixed a door for his stepfather and charged him for his expenses and his stepfather thought he was over-charged and complained about it to anyone who would listen to him about it.’
      • ‘Despite the tarnish of corruption from the Oil-for-Food programme in Iraq and the constant criticism of its aid work, there is simply no other organisation with the capacity or mandate to lead in times of international crisis.’
      • ‘But by then, the police were a living joke, the punch line to a thousand donut jokes and a grafting, bribe taking tarnish on the notion of civil service.’
      • ‘Admittedly, there's nothing wrong with her performance - it's heartfelt and appealing - but this kind of work is unlikely to remove the tarnish on her reputation.’
      • ‘As your article points out, any tarnish of Bangalore's image is not just a blemish on the city, but also a loss of opportunity for our nation at large.’
      • ‘Well, the black stones will no longer be dug from Longannet, Scotland's last deep mine, and that fringe of gold now fears the tarnish of economic inactivity and community depression.’
      • ‘With considerable fanfare, but without any captains of industry, the president enacted a crackdown intended to take some of the tarnish off the blue chips.’
      • ‘It brings a tarnish, obviously, to the claims by the United States that it is the home of diversity and the haven for pluralism.’
      • ‘Nothing will wash away the tarnish of sleaze and secrecy that council has fashioned for itself.’
      • ‘Will he ask the World Economic Forum to release the tape to help clear the air and remove the unfair tarnish?’
      • ‘Will the tarnish of this film ever wipe off his movie career?’
      smear, black mark, slur, stain, blemish, blot, taint, stigma, smirch, flaw
      View synonyms


Late Middle English (as a verb): from French terniss-, lengthened stem of ternir, from terne ‘dark, dull’.