from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A small mountain lake, especially one formed by glaciers.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A small mountain lake, especially in Northern England.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A mountain lake or pool.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A small mountain lake or pool, especially one which has no visible feeders.
  • n. A bog; a marsh; a fen.
  • n. Same as tern.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a mountain lake (especially one formed by glaciers)


Middle English tarne, of Scandinavian origin.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old Norse tjǫrn ("a small mountain lake without tributaries"). Cognate with Norwegian tjern ("small forest or mountain lake") (Wiktionary)


  • The little mountain tarn below was almost dry, and the Sundew plants by its sides, which were wont to revel in the damp surrounding moss, had lost their nature altogether, and never now offered their coronet of sparkling drops to the admiration of those that passed.

    Parables From Nature

  •  At the farther side of the tarn was a small island.

    Son of a Witch

  • The blue surface \ of the tarn was a mirror, reflecting the Otter as it circled around the bowl.

    Ice Hunt

  • Level earth ran up to the edge, as if the tarn was a mirror that some goddess had dropped in the coarse grasses.

    Dearly Beloved

  • For I ha 'tarn'd a Scotch robber across the salt seas,

    Two Suffolk Friends

  • "Go on, Mas Don; 'tarn't so bad when you're used to it, but a shovel full of our best West Indy plarntation sugar wouldn't ha' done it any harm to my thinking."

    The Adventures of Don Lavington Nolens Volens

  • "No, Mas 'Don,' tarn't that," said Jem, with a look of disgust.

    The Adventures of Don Lavington Nolens Volens

  • "There, 'tarn't no use, sir," said the boatswain, "if so be as I may speak."

    Fitz the Filibuster

  • I don't think there's anything to fear, but take my gun, and if that old ruffian does rouse up and crawl to the saloon door -- 'tarn't likely, or he'd ha' been here before, but I says it, my lad, because it would be your dooty, and you must -- shoot, sir; shoot him.

    King o' the Beach A Tropic Tale

  • "Oh yes, it's their farret, 'tarn't mine," said Magglin quickly.

    Burr Junior


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • "A black asp crawls past a sawgrass marsh that has algal tarns."
    Eunoia by Christian Bök (upgraded edition), p 27

    May 20, 2010

  • "Gnarled, wild, with turbulent faces, their ill-cut clothes full of character, the women in pale brown shawls, the men wearing black sombreros and carrying big sticks, they swept in, ill at ease, laughing and shouting defiantly. And so much part of their natural environment were they that for a moment they seemed to create about themselves rocks and bushes, tarns, turf-ricks, and sea."
    - Frank O'Connor, 'In The Train'.

    October 10, 2008