tarnished/sullied

redgiant

Senior Member
Cantonese, Hong Kong
Background: The actor was acclaimed for his sterling performances in a few Oscar winning classics. He was well respected in the industry and every actor longed to work with him. But when the news broke out that he was having an affair with an underage actress, people dissociated themselves from him, his roles in his ongoing projects were recast and he became joke fodders for the internet and talk show hosts.

Example: The actor's reputation was tarnished/sullied by the affair.

Hi,
I can't make any significant difference between "tarnished" and "sullied". Are the difference one of degree, where sully has a more significant impact on the person (Just a guess)? Which one would you opt for in the example above?
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Both words mean the same thing in contexts dealing with reputations. The reputation is harmed whether you choose "tarnished" or "sullied."
     

    redgiant

    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Thank you very much owlman5. Can I go a bit further and say they are also interchangeable when it comes to "name", "legacy" or anything related to opinions about a person held by the public.
     
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