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
  1. verb
    make dirty or spotty, as by exposure to air; also used metaphorically
    synonyms: defile, maculate, sully, tarnish
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    tarnish or stain
    type of:
    blob, blot, fleck, spot
    make a spot or mark onto
  2. verb
    produce or leave stains
    blob, blot, fleck, spot
    make a spot or mark onto
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    stain with a dirty substance, such as soot
    type of:
    alter, change, modify
    cause to change; make different; cause a transformation
  3. verb
    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
  4. verb
    color for microscopic study
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    type of:
    color with dye
  5. noun
    a soiled or discolored appearance
    synonyms: 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
  6. noun
    the state of being covered with unclean things
    synonyms: dirt, filth, grease, grime, grunge, soil
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    type of:
    dirtiness, uncleanness
    the state of being unsanitary
  7. noun
    a symbol of disgrace or infamy
    synonyms: brand, mark, stigma
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    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
  8. noun
    an act that brings discredit to the person who does it
    synonyms: blot, smear, smirch, spot
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    type of:
    error, fault, mistake
    a wrong action attributable to bad judgment or ignorance or inattention
  9. noun
    (microscopy) a dye or other coloring material that is used in microscopy to make structures visible
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    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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