Etymology
Advertisement
Advertisement
tarnish (v.)

mid-15c. ternishen, "become tarnished; discolor," from Old French terniss-, present-participle stem of ternir "dull the luster or brightness of, make dim" (15c.), probably from terne (adj.) "dull, dark," which according to Diez is 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), but there are difficulties of form, sense, and date. Figurative sense is from 1690s. Related: Tarnished; tarnishing.

Related entries & more 
stainless (adj.)
1580s, from stain (n.) + -less. Related: Stainlessly. Stainless steel is from 1917, a chromium-steel alloy (usually 14% chromium) used for cutlery, etc., so called because it is highly resistant to rust or tarnish.
Related entries & more 
spot (v.)
mid-13c., "to mark or stain with spots;" late 14c. as "to stain, sully, tarnish," from spot (n.). Meaning "to see and recognize," is from 1718, originally colloquial and applied to a criminal or suspected person; the general sense is from 1860. Related: Spotted; spotting. Spotted dick "suet pudding with currants and raisins" is attested from 1849.
Related entries & more 
dern (adj.)

"secret, hidden," from Old English derne (West Saxon dierne) "concealed, secret, dark," from West Germanic *darnjaz (source also of Old Saxon derni, Old Frisian dern "concealed, dark," Old High German tarni "secret, concealed, veiled"), related to dark (adj.).

Archaic or poetic only after 16c., it was important and productive in Middle English, with extended senses of "secluded; profound, mysterious; stealthy, deceptive; private, confidential." Dern love was "secret or illicit love; a mistress."

As a verb, meaning "to conceal," it was from Old English diernan "to hide." Compare Old Saxon dernian, Old High German tarnjan "to conceal, hide;" German Tarnkappe, Tarnhelm "magical cap or helmet which turns the wearer invisible or allows him to assume any form." French ternir "to tarnish, to dull" apparently is from Germanic.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
gold (n.)

"precious metal noted for its color, luster, malleability, and freedom from rust or tarnish," Old English gold, from Proto-Germanic *gulthan "gold" (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old High German gold, German Gold, Middle Dutch gout, Dutch goud, Old Norse gull, Danish guld, Gothic gulþ), from PIE root *ghel- (2) "to shine," with derivatives denoting gold (the "bright" metal).

The root is the general Indo-European one for "gold," found in Germanic, Balto-Slavic (compare Old Church Slavonic zlato, Russian zoloto, "gold"), and Indo-Iranian. Finnish kulta is from German; Hungarian izlot is from Slavic. For Latin aurum see aureate. Greek khrysos probably is from Semitic.

From Homer on through Middle English, "red" often is given as a characteristic color of pure gold or objects made from it. This seems puzzling, but it might stem from an ancient practice of testing the purity of gold by heating it; in Middle English red gold was "pure gold" (c. 1200).

Nay, even more than this, the oftener gold is subjected to the action of fire, the more refined in quality it becomes; indeed, fire is one test of its goodness, as, when submitted to intense heat, gold ought to assume a similar colour, and turn red and igneous in appearance; a mode of testing which is known as "obrussa." [Pliny, "Natural History," 33.19]
Related entries & more