AskDefine | Define tarnish

Dictionary Definition

tarnish n : discoloration of metal surface caused by oxidation v : make dirty or spotty, as by exposure to air; also used metaphorically; "The silver was tarnished by the long exposure to the air"; "Her reputation was sullied after the affair with a married man" [syn: stain, maculate, sully, defile]

User Contributed Dictionary




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


  1. To oxidize or discolor due to oxidation.
    Careful storage of silver will prevent it from tarnishing.
  2. To soil, sully, damage or compromise
    He is afraid that he will tarnish his reputation if he disagrees.

Extensive Definition

Tarnish is a layer of corrosion that develops over copper, brass, silver, aluminum as well as a degree of semi-reactive metals as they undergo oxidation. It is analogous to rust, but with a slower rate of occurrence. It is mainly caused by chemicals in the air such as sulfur. It appears as a grey or black film over the metal.


In objects which are primarily for display rather than use, the tarnishing process can be prevented in the long term by tinning, a process by which the reactive substance is coated in a non-reactive substance, such as tin or wax, and thus protected from oxygen.
For more frequently used items such as silverware, tarnish is easily prevented by constant use and washing with a mild dish soap.


"This kitchen version of electrostripping is safe and easy. It's especially useful for removing tarnish from flatware and holloware. In a pot lined with aluminum foil, mix a diluted solution of equal parts of baking soda salt, and liquid soap. A quarter cup of each to a gallon of water is a typical mixture. Set the sterling in the pot; bring the mix to a simmer and allow it to stand for 10-20 minutes as the oxides are transferred to the aluminum, which you'll see is darkened. Throw that away and wash the silver before using it".
Another way to treat tarnish is to put a drop of water and some fluoride toothpaste on a tissue and rub it on the affected metal.


tarnish in Arabic: فقد اللمعان
tarnish in German: Anlaufen

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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