- (archaic) The act or process of damnation or reprobation; hell.
- 1901, Alien, Another Woman's Territory, page 311:
- I am Offul maazed. Wheer in tarnations es that theer plaguy girl?
- 1965, Benjamin Albert Botkin, A treasury of New England folklore: stories, ballads, and traditions:
- Them city fellers liked to died when they see me come in the office ! I says to 'em: "Had a tarnation of a time finding this place.
- 1989, Patrick D. Smith, The River is Home ; And, Angel City, →ISBN, page 45:
- "Now who in tarnation is Uncle Jobe?" asked Pa.
- 1999, John O'Connor, The Hound of the Baskervilles, →ISBN, page 13:
- Then where in tarnation is it?
- What in tarnation is going on?
- (obsolete) Someone or something that causes trouble; troublemaker.
- 1848, Henry Mayhew, Tom Taylor, Mark Lemon, Punch - Volumes 12-15, page 162:
- I would say more, but RADLEY's come up to tell me I must go and meet that tarnation BANCROFT.
- 1854, Ann Sophia Stephens, High Life in New York, page 70:
- I felt sort of odd all over, and I hadn't the least notion what could ail me; it warn't a very tedious feeling, though, but it seemed as if I was a dreaming yit, and all about that tarnation little Miss Miles.
- 1928 September, F. Ray Ritchie, “The Worm Turns”, in Boys' Life, volume 18, number 9, page 39:
- The year before that the young tarnations got up into the tower one night and hooked a rope onto the bell and stretched it across the campus into Professor Robert's barn.
- (archaic) Used to express anger, irritation, disappointment, annoyance, contempt, etc.
- 2002, T. T. Flynn, Prodigal of Death: A Western Quintet, →ISBN, page 41:
- "Tarnation! You all right?" "Hell, no, I ain't all right!"
- 2008, Marlies Bugmann and Karl May, Winnetou III, page 338:
- “They contain the precise description of the place where the nuggets are hidden.” “Tarnation! Is that true?"
- 2013, Kady Cross, The Girl With The Iron Touch, →ISBN:
- “Tarnation,” Jasper murmured, his attention turning to the thing in the Aether bubble.
- Bothersome; devilish.
- 1876, The Catholic Record - Volume 11, page 78:
- Now you go 'long back to the house, Marm Winthrop, and if riding 'longside of a popish priest don't speerit me into the bottomless pit, I'll be blamed if I don't go some day into his church and find out what all that tarnation lingo means.
- 1894, Macmillan's Magazine - Volume 70, page 343:
- It started over nothing, and would have come to nothing but for that tarnation liquor.
- 1921, Gilbert Guest, A Bridal Trip in a Prairie Schooner, page 128:
- Hello stranger, this is a fine fix you got into, getting a tarnation fever out in the Rockies, but my wife is the best hand at sick folks you ever see.
- Generic intensifier.
- 1803, The Castle of the Pyrenees; Or, the Wanderer of the Alps.:
- Some time in the month o' August, I think it wur, I found myself in London wi'out a tarnation cent.
- 1838, The Old American Comic Almanac:
- My love the strongest, a tarnation sight.
- 1861, William Edmondstoune Aytoun, Norman Sinclair, page 213:
- I allow now, if I had asked you to loan me a handful of dollars, you might have looked as glum as a beaver in a trap ; but there's a tarnation difference between that and a civil question on the road.
- Very; extremely.
- 1855, John Diprose, Diprose's New Sixpenny Comic Song-Book, page 57:
- He was so tarnation black you couldn't see him except in the middle of the day.
- 1867, John Cordy Jeaffreson, A Book about Lawyers - Volume 2, page 242:
- Since Britannia ruled the waves, I guess it's a tarnation queer thing that she didn't rule 'em straighter.
- 1883 -, John Thomas Dicks, Dicks' standard plays, page 48:
- Well, that's tarnation strange !
- 2009, Dennis M. Larsen -, Slick as a Mitten: Ezra Meeker's Klondike Enterprise, page 29:
- I know it is lonesome for you, but I will be with you again in time and then we can and will have a "tarnation good time."
This New Englandism has fallen out of use in New England, but is remembered for its colorfulness and is still used in the Southeastern United States as a minced oath, where ‘hell’ or ‘damn’ would otherwise be said, especially in the phrase "what in tarnation".