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to dull the luster of (a metallic surface), especially by oxidation; discolor.
to diminish or destroy the purity of; stain; sully:
The scandal tarnished his reputation.
to grow dull or discolored; lose luster.
to become sullied.
a tarnished coating.
tarnished condition; discoloration; alteration of the luster of a metal.
a stain or blemish.
Contemporary Examples

In response, Netanyahu said Olmert was trying to tarnish his administration ahead of parliamentary elections next week.
Explosive Allegations against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Dan Ephron January 15, 2013

And using charges themselves false in order to tarnish his reputation?
A False Charge Against Fareed Zakaria (UPDATED) David Frum August 13, 2012

He said Iran pays lobbyists in Washington to discredit reports by Iranian exiles and tarnish their image.
White House Debunks Iran Nuclear Explosion, But Iran Denies Planting Story Dan Ephron January 28, 2013

Banville may tarnish his hero a bit, particularly by tormenting him with alcohol.
Can Pulp Win the Booker? Allen Barra September 6, 2011

Historical Examples

God forbid I should ever tarnish the glorious name I am fortunate enough to bear!
The Journal of Countess Franoise Krasinska Kasimir Dziekonska (translator)

So many of us tarnish our victories by the manner in which we display them.
My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year John Henry Jowett

Utensils made of this are attractive, not heavy, and they do not tarnish or rust.
Ontario Teachers’ Manuals: Household Management Ministry of Education

Though the drops were salt, they would not tarnish the gold.
The Maidens’ Lodge Emily Sarah Holt

These rough hands of mine, will they not tarnish the purity of your white shoulder?
The Legend of the Glorious Adventures of Tyl Ulenspiegel in the land of Flanders and elsewhere Charles de Coster

The honour of his name is in my keeping, he says, and he looks to me to do nothing to tarnish it.
Great Porter Square, v. 2 Benjamin Leopold Farjeon

to lose or cause to lose the shine, esp by exposure to air or moisture resulting in surface oxidation; discolour: silver tarnishes quickly
to stain or become stained; taint or spoil: a fraud that tarnished his reputation
a tarnished condition, surface, or film

1590s, from present participle stem of Middle French ternir “dull the luster or brightness of, make dim” (15c.), probably from Old French terne (adj.) “dull, dark,” from a Germanic source cognate with Old High German tarnjan “to conceal, hide,” Old English dyrnan “to hide, darken,” from Proto-Germanic *darnjaz (see dern). Figurative sense is from 1690s. Related: Tarnished; tarnishing.

1713, from tarnish (v.).


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