A stain is a mark or discoloration, and to stain something is to mark it with dirt or color it, either deliberately or accidentally. If you stain your sister's favorite sweatshirt, she might be mad at you—especially if you didn't ask before borrowing it.

You can stain your favorite white pants when you're eating strawberries, or stain the table top you're making by painting it with a tinted liquid. The resulting stain in both cases is visible. Another kind of stain is a figurative mark or blemish, like the stain on your school records from that difficult semester when you never did your homework. Stain comes, via the Middle English disteynen, or "discolor," from the Latin tingere, "to color or dye."

Definitions of stain

v make dirty or spotty, as by exposure to air; also used metaphorically

defile, maculate, sully, tarnish
tarnish or stain
Type of:
blob, blot, fleck, spot
make a spot or mark onto

v produce or leave stains

“Red wine stains the table cloth”
blob, blot, fleck, spot
make a spot or mark onto
stain with a dirty substance, such as soot
Type of:
alter, change, modify
cause to change; make different; cause a transformation

v color with a liquid dye or tint

Stain this table a beautiful walnut color”
“people knew how to stain glass a beautiful blue in the middle ages”
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ebonise, ebonize
stain black to make it look like ebony
stain an object by immersing it in a liquid
stain (skin) with indelible color
paint or stain like marble
make a veinlike pattern
Type of:
color with dye

v color for microscopic study

Type of:
color with dye

n a soiled or discolored appearance

“the wine left a dark stain
discoloration, discolouration
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a discoloration caused by heat
a discoloration caused by blood
iron mold, iron mould
a spot caused the staining with rust or ink
mud stain
a stain produced by mud
oil stain
a stain produced by oil
discoloration of metal surface caused by oxidation
Type of:
appearance, visual aspect
outward or visible aspect of a person or thing

n the state of being covered with unclean things

dirt, filth, grease, grime, grunge, soil
Type of:
dirtiness, uncleanness
the state of being unsanitary

n a symbol of disgrace or infamy

brand, mark, stigma
a mark against a person for misconduct or failure; usually given in school or armed forces
bar sinister, bend sinister
a mark of bastardy; lines from top right to bottom left
cloven foot, cloven hoof
the mark of Satan
Type of:
an arbitrary sign (written or printed) that has acquired a conventional significance

n an act that brings discredit to the person who does it

blot, smear, smirch, spot
Type of:
error, fault, mistake
a wrong action attributable to bad judgment or ignorance or inattention

n (microscopy) a dye or other coloring material that is used in microscopy to make structures visible

crystal violet, gentian violet
a green crystal (violet in water) used as a dye or stain or bactericide or fungicide or anthelmintic or burn treatment
methylene blue, methylthionine chloride
a dark green dye used as a stain, an antiseptic, a chemical indicator, and an antidote in cyanide poisoning
a stain of contrasting color that is used when the principal stain does not show the structure clearly
Type of:
color, coloring material, colour, colouring material
any material used for its color

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