1. A small mark that makes the appearance of something less attractive.
2. An imperfection that mars or impairs; a flaw.
tr.v. blem·ished, blem·ish·ing, blem·ish·es
1. To cause to have a small mark or marks that diminish attractiveness: skin blemished by an allergy.
2. To mar or impair by a flaw: accusations that blemished his reputation.
[Middle English blemisshen, to damage, mar, from Old French blesmir, blemir, blemiss-, to make pale, of Germanic origin; see bhel-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: blemish, imperfection, fault, defect, flaw1
These nouns denote loss or absence of perfection. A blemish is something thought to mar the appearance or character of a thing: "Industry in art is a necessity—not a virtue—and any evidence of the same, in the production, is a blemish" (James McNeill Whistler).
Imperfection and fault apply more comprehensively to any deficiency or shortcoming: "A true critic ought to dwell rather upon excellencies than imperfections" (Joseph Addison). "Each of us would point out to the other her most serious faults, and thereby help her to remedy them" (Anna Howard Shaw).
Defect denotes a serious functional or structural shortcoming: "Ill breeding ... is not a single defect, it is the result of many" (Henry Fielding).
A flaw is an imperfection that may be hidden or of apparent insignificance but that often has serious consequences: Experiments revealed a very basic flaw in the theory.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.