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tincture definition


This page has 26 definitions of tincture in English and Latin. Tincture is a noun, verb and participle. Examples of how to use tincture in a sentence are shown. Also define these 0 related words and terms: .

English tincture definition


Tinctures in heraldry (noun sense 1.2.3) can be divided into metals, colours, and furs.
An early-20th-century bottle once containing tincture of iodine (noun sense 2.2), which was used as an antiseptic.

The noun is derived from Late Middle English tincture (a dye, pigment; a colour, hue, tint; process of colouring or dyeing; medicinal ointment or salve (perhaps one discolouring the skin); use of a medicinal tincture; (alchemy) transmutation of base metals into gold; ability to cause such transmutation; substance supposed to cause such transmutation) [and other forms],[1] borrowed from Latin tīnctūra (act of dyeing) + Middle English -ure (suffix indicating an action or a process and the means or result of that action or process).[2][3] Tīnctūra is derived from tīnctus (coloured, tinged; dipped in; impregnated with; treated) + -tūra (suffix forming action nouns expressing activities or results); while tīnctus is the perfect passive participle of tingō (to colour, dye, tinge; to dip (in), immerse; to impregnate (with); to moisten, wet; to smear), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *teng- (to dip; to soak). Doublet of teinture and tinctura.

The verb is derived from the noun.[4]



tincture (plural tinctures)

  1. Senses relating to colour, and to dipping something into a liquid.
    1. (obsolete) A pigment or other substance that colours or dyes; specifically, a pigment used as a cosmetic. [15th–19th c.]
    2. (by extension)
      1. A colour or tint, especially if produced by a pigment or something which stains; a tinge.
      2. (figuratively) A slight addition of a thing to something else; a shade, a touch, a trace.
      3. (heraldry) A hue or pattern used in the depiction of a coat of arms; namely, a colour, fur, or metal.
    3. (obsolete)
      1. The act of colouring or dyeing.
      2. (figuratively)
        1. A slight physical quality other than colour (especially taste), or an abstract quality, added to something; a tinge.
          a tincture of orange peel
        2. A small flaw; a blemish, a stain.
          • a. 1659 (date written), John Cleveland, “To the Earl of Holland, then Chancellor of the University of Cambridge”, in J[ohn] L[ake] and S[amuel] D[rake], editors, The Works of John Cleveland, Containing His Poems, Orations, Epistles, [], London: [] R. Holt, for Obadiah Blagrave, [], published 1687, OCLC 30835082, page 114:
            To offend againſt ſo gracious a Patron, vvould add a Tincture to our Diſobedience; yet ſuch is the Iniquity of our Condition, that vve are forced to defer our Gratitude.
      3. (Christianity) Synonym of baptism
  2. Scientific and alchemical senses.
    1. (pharmacy) A medicine consisting of one or more substances dissolved in ethanol or some other solvent.
      tincture of cannabis    tincture of iodine
    2. (by extension, humorous) A (small) alcoholic drink.
    3. (obsolete except historical)
      1. (alchemy)
        1. An immaterial substance or spiritual principle which was thought capable of being instilled into physical things; also, the essence or spirit of something.
          • 1599, T[homas] M[offett], The Silkewormes, and Their Flies: [], London: [] V[alentine] S[immes] for Nicholas Ling, [], OCLC 222334769, pages 67–68:
            For vvhat is ſilke but eu'n a Quinteſſence, / Made vvithout hands beyond al humane ſenſe? / A quinteſſence? nay vvel it may be call'd, / A deathleſſe tincture, ſent vs from the skies, / VVhoſe colour ſtands, vvhose gloſſe is ne're appalld, []
        2. A material essence thought to be capable of extraction from a substance.
          • 1671 December 17 (Gregorian calendar; indicated as 1672), Nehemiah Grew, “Of the Root”, in The Anatomy of Vegetables Begun. [], London: [] Spencer Hickman, printer to the R[oyal] Society, [], OCLC 1008158759, pages 52–53:
            [T]he pureſt part [of the sap], as moſt apt and ready, recedes, vvith its due Tinctures, from the ſaid Cortical Body, to the Lignous. VVhich Lignous Body likevviſe ſuper-inducing its ovvn proper Tinctures into the ſaid Sap; []
          • a. 1677, Matthew Hale, “Concerning Vegetables, and Especially Insecta Animalia, whether Any of Them are Sponte Orta, or Arise Not rather Ex Præexistente Semine”, in The Primitive Origination of Mankind, Considered and Examined According to the Light of Nature, London: [] William Godbid, for William Shrowsbery, [], published 1677, OCLC 42005461, section III, page 267:
            And I do perſvvade my ſelf, that the common Devv exhaled from ſome ſorts of Herbs or VVeeds, but eſpecially from the common Graſs, carries vvith it the Seminal Tincture of the Herb, vvhich being again deſcended by Devvs or Rain upon the bare and naked Earth, re-produceth the ſame Species: []
      2. (chemistry) The part of a substance thought to be essential, finer, and/or more volatile, which could be extracted in a solution; also, the process of obtaining this.
        • 1610 (first performance), Ben[jamin] Jonson, The Alchemist, London: [] Thomas Snodham, for Walter Burre, and are to be sold by Iohn Stepneth, [], published 1612, OCLC 1008120557; reprinted Menston, Yorkshire: The Scolar Press, 1970, OCLC 52009618, Act IV, scene i:
          [C]ome forth, / And taſt the ayre of Palaces, eate, drinke / The toyles of Empricks, and their boaſted practiſe: / Tincture of Pearle, an Corall, Gold, and Amber; []
        • 1625 January 19 (first performance; Gregorian calendar), [Ben Jonson], The Fortunate Isles and Their Union. [], [London: s.n.], published [1625], OCLC 1008073556, signature [A4], verso:
          VVhy, by his skill, / Of vvhich he has left you the inheritance, / Here in a pot: this little gally pot, / Of tincture, high roſe tincture.
        • 1707, J[ohn] Mortimer, “Some Further Observations Relating to Malt”, in The Whole Art of Husbandry; or, The Way of Managing and Improving of Land. [], 2nd edition, London: [] J[ohn] H[umphreys] for H[enry] Mortlock [], and J[onathan] Robinson [], published 1708, OCLC 13320837, book IX, page 279:
          'Tis not unlikely that Grain may afford its Tincture, and that excellent Beer and Ale may be made thereof vvithout malting, but I ſhall leave theſe things to experience.

Derived terms

Related terms




tincture (third-person singular simple present tinctures, present participle tincturing, simple past and past participle tinctured)

  1. (transitive)
    1. (chiefly in past participle form) To colour or stain (something) with, or as if with, a dye or pigment.
    2. (figuratively, chiefly in past participle form) Followed by with: to add to or impregnate (something) with (a slight amount of) an abstract or (obsolete) physical quality; to imbue, to taint, to tinge.
      • 1634 (first performance), Thomas Heywood, “Her Majestie Inviting the King to Denmarke house, in the Strand, upon His Birth-day, being November the 19. This Play (Bearing from that time) the Title of the Queens Masque, was Againe Presented before Him: Cupid Speaking the Prologue.”, in Loves Maistresse: Or, The Queens Masque. [], London: [] Robert Raworth, for Iohn Crowch; and are to bee sold by Iasper Emery, [], published 1636, OCLC 84770400:
        Of fulgent beautie; but ſo pure a mind, / As if tinctur'd from Heaven, and ſo devin'd.
      • 1653, Jacob Behmen [i.e., Jakob Böhme], “A Theosophick Epistle, or Letter, wherein the Life of a True Christian is Described: []”, in [anonymous], transl., A Consideration upon the Book of Esaias Stiefel of the Threefold State of Man, and His New Birth. [], London: [] John Macock, OCLC 1227532664, paragraph 34, page 129:
        Chriſt dravveth my VVill into himſelf, and cloateth it vvith his Blood and Death, and tictureth it vvith the higheſt Tincture of the Divine Povver: Thus it is changed into an Angelical Image, and getteth a Divine Life.
      • 1668, Franciscus Euistor the Palæopolite [pseudonym; Henry More], “The Fifth Dialogue”, in Divine Dialogues, Containing Sundry Disquisitions & Instructions Concerning the Attributes of God and His Providence in the World. [], 2nd edition, London: [] Joseph Downing [], published 1713, OCLC 1227551523, paragraph XXXVIII, page 515:
        VVhile in the mean time there iſſued out on the Eaſt-ſide a ſtrong VVind, but pure and refreſhing, vvhich dividing into ſeveral parts that turned round became ſo many innocuous VVhirl-vvinds of ſincere Air, tinctured only vvith a cool refreſhing ſmell, as if it had paſſed over ſome large field of Lilies and Roſes.
      • 1671 December 17 (Gregorian calendar; indicated as 1672), Nehemiah Grew, “Of the Root”, in The Anatomy of Vegetables Begun. [], London: [] Spencer Hickman, printer to the R[oyal] Society, [], OCLC 1008158759, page 53:
        The remainder, [] thus retreats, that is, by the continual appulſe of the Sap, is in part carried off into the Cortical Body back again, the Sap vvhereof it novv tinctures into good Aliment: []
      • 1739, [David Hume], “Of the Direct Passions”, in A Treatise of Human Nature: [], London: [] John Noon, [], OCLC 1029651633; republished as L[ewis] A[mherst] Selby-Bigge, editor, A Treatise of Human Nature [], Oxford, Oxfordshire: Clarendon Press, 1896, OCLC 890504680, book II (Of the Passions), part III (Of the Will and Direct Passions), page 443:
        The passions of fear and hope may arise when the chances are equal on both sides, and no superiority can be discover'd in the one above the other. Nay, in this situation the passions are rather the strongest, as the mind has then the least foundation to rest upon, and is toss'd with the greatest uncertainty. Throw in a superior degree of probability to the side of grief, you immediately see that passion diffuse itself over the composition, and tincture it into fear.
      • 1797–1807 (date written), William Blake, “Vala [Vala, or The Four Zoas]. Night the Seventh.”, in Edwin John Ellis and William Butler Yeats, editors, The Works of William Blake: Poetic, Symbolic, and Critical [], volume III, London: Bernard Quaritch, [], published 17 January 1893, OCLC 457076360, page 81:
        And first he drew a line upon the walls of shining heaven, / And Enitharmon tinctured it with beams of blushing love.
      • 1820 December 24, Joseph Severn, “[Number] 85: Joseph Severn to John Taylor”, in Hyder Edward Rollins, editor, The Keats Circle: Letters and Papers 1816–1878, volume I, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, published 1948, OCLC 1110407304, page 181:
        Now observe my dear Sir I dont for a moment push my little but honest Religious faith upon poor [John] Keats—except as far as my feelings go—but these I try to keep from him— I fall into his views sometimes to quiet him and tincture them with a somewhat of mine— []
      • 1828, William Crawford, “The Fanciad”, in The Fates of Alceus; or, Love’s Knight Errant: An Amatory Poem, [], Paisley, Renfrewshire: [] J. Taylor, OCLC 13315395, page 121:
        Thou tincturest bright Hebe's lonely walks, / Art with her as inspir'd with dread, she stalks / With pleasing dread, the sylvan maze, where dwell / Oft lowering gipsies of the wizard spell; []
      • 1863 May, T. I., “Catallus. Part I.”, in Dublin University Magazine, a Literary and Political Journal, volume LXI, number CCCLXV, Dublin: George Herbert, []; London: Hurst & Blackett, OCLC 949553349, page 552, column 2:
        Oh, beauteous little pigeon, / Say whither art thou flying? / And whence hast gained the perfume / That from thy wings diffusing / Tincturest the air thou breathest?
        A translation of the Greek lyric poet Anacreon’s poem “Pigeon”.
      • 1888–1891, Herman Melville, “[Billy Budd, Foretopman.] Chapter X.”, in Billy Budd and Other Stories, London: John Lehmann, published 1951, OCLC 639975898, page 254:
        As it is, one must turn to some authority not liable to the charge of being tinctured with the Biblical element.
      • 1982, Saul Bellow, “Him with His Foot in His Mouth”, in Him with His Foot in His Mouth and Other Stories, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Row, published 1984, →ISBN, page 11:
        Nor, I imagine, can librarians be great readers. They have too many books, most of them burdensome. The crowded shelves give off an inviting, consoling, seductive odor that is also tinctured faintly with something pernicious, with poison and doom.
    3. (pharmacy) To dissolve (a substance) in ethanol or some other solvent to produce a medicinal tincture.
      • 2011, Deb Soule, “Creating a Herbal Apothecary”, in The Woman’s Handbook of Herbal Healing: A Guide to Natural Remedies, New York, N.Y.: Skyhorse Publishing, →ISBN:
        Fill a glass jar full of plant matter, leaving an inch of space. (I prefer to tincture each herb separately and mix combinations as I need them.) Completely cover plants with 100-proof vodka, brandy, or vinegar and secure the lid tightly.
  2. (intransitive, rare) To have a taint or tinge of some quality.
    • 1787, Geoffrey Gambado [pseudonym; Henry William Bunbury], “The Editor to the Reader”, in An Academy for Grown Horsemen; [], 2nd edition, London: [] Hooper and Wigstead, [], published 1796, OCLC 1008014184, page xviii:
      The portrait of the Author, prefixed, is engraved from a drawing by another of his friends, done from memory; it is like, but a likeneſs that tinctures of the prejudice of friendſhip.
    • 1998, Nadine Gordimer, The House Gun, New York, N.Y.: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, →ISBN, page 212:
      Which one of the carefully chosen assessors, one white, one sufficiently tinctured to pass as black, was it who was speaking—both sat, either side of the judge, silent henchmen.


Derived terms



  1. ^ tinctūre, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ -ūre, suf.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  3. ^ tincture, n.”, in OED Online , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2021; “tincture, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  4. ^ tincture, v.”, in OED Online , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, June 2021; “tincture, v.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading


Latin tincture definition



  1. vocative masculine singular of tīnctūrus