\ˈklēn \

Definition of clean 

(Entry 1 of 4)

1a : free from dirt or pollution changed to clean clothes clean solar energy

b : free from contamination or disease a clean wound

c : free or relatively free from radioactivity a clean atomic explosion

2a : unadulterated, pure the clean thrill of one's first flight

b of a precious stone : having no interior flaws visible

c : free from growth that hinders tillage clean farmland

3a : free from moral corruption or sinister connections of any kind a candidate with a clean record also : free from violations a clean driving record

b : free from offensive treatment of sexual subjects and from the use of obscenity a clean joke

c : observing the rules : fair a clean fight

4 : ceremonially or spiritually pure and all who are clean may eat flesh — Leviticus 7:19 (Revised Standard Version)

5a : thorough, complete a clean break with the past

b : deftly executed : skillful clean ballet technique The gymnast made a clean landing.

c : hit beyond the reach of an opponent a clean single to center

6a : relatively free from error or blemish : clear specifically : legible clean copy

b : unencumbered clean bill of sale

7a : characterized by clarity and precision : trim a clean prose style architecture with clean almost austere lines

b : even, smooth a clean edge a sharp blow causing a clean break

c : free from external hindrances to smooth flow (as of water or air) a clean airplane a ship with a clean bottom

8a : empty the ship returned with a clean hold

b : free from drug addiction has been clean for six months

c slang : having no contraband (such as weapons or drugs) in one's possession All visitors to the prison are searched to make sure they're clean.

d of a computer : not having anything added by a user installed the software on a clean computer

9 : habitually neat



Definition of clean (Entry 2 of 4)

1a : so as to clean a new broom sweeps clean

b : in a clean manner play the game clean

2 : all the way : completely the bullet went clean through his arm


cleaned; cleaning; cleans

Definition of clean (Entry 3 of 4)

transitive verb

1a : to make clean: such as

(1) : to rid of dirt, impurities, or extraneous matter clean a wound

(2) : to rid of corruption vowing to clean up city hall

b : remove, eradicate usually used with up or off clean up that mess

2a : strip, empty a tree cleaned of fruit

b : to remove the entrails from clean fish

c : to deprive of money or possessions often used with out they cleaned him out completely

intransitive verb

: to undergo or perform a process of cleaning clean up before dinner

clean house

1 : to clean a house and its furniture

2 : to make sweeping reforms or changes (as of personnel)

clean one's clock

: to beat one badly in a fight or competition

clean up one's act

: to behave in a more acceptable manner



Definition of clean (Entry 4 of 4)

: an act of cleaning dirt especially from the surface of something She gave the tub a good clean.

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Other Words from clean


cleanness \ ˈklēn-​nəs \ noun


cleanability \ ˌklē-​nə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē \ noun
cleanable \ ˈklē-​nə-​bəl \ adjective

Examples of clean in a Sentence


This table isn't clean. There's a sticky spot where something spilled. He keeps a very clean house. The janitor does a good job of keeping the office clean. I wiped the baby's face clean. He's a clean young man. Cats are very clean animals. Solar power provides clean energy.


Somehow, the top of the machine came clean off. The nail went clean through the wall. The fish were jumping clean out of the water.


The carpet needs to be cleaned. They divide household duties so that she cleans and her husband cooks. They cleaned the fish and cooked them on the campfire. skin and clean a rabbit
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Like Golden State’s unexpected play for DeMarcus Cousins, this signing works because Denver’s worst-case scenario is a clean break should Thomas struggle with his health or role. Ben Golliver,, "Grades: Isaiah Thomas Can Rejuvenate Career in Nuggets' Low-Risk Gamble," 13 July 2018 Use a damp cloth to rinse, and then dry with a clean cloth. Heloise, Houston Chronicle, "Jam, jelly … what's the difference?," 11 July 2018 Johnson and other Brexit supporters are wanting to make a clean break from the E.U. to strike new trade deals around the world, but the prime minister later defended her Brexit strategy. Fox News, "Gowdy: SCOTUS confirmation process has become politicized," 10 July 2018 Keep your hands clean, use different plates and utensils for raw and cooked foods and separate meat and vegetables. Andrea Thelen, Ms, Detroit Free Press, "6 tips for healthy and safe grilling," 9 July 2018 At a special meeting of the council on Oct. 18, 1897, Hank Oakes was awarded a contract to keep the new pavement clean for one year for $960. Arthur Hart, idahostatesman, "A street paved with wood? Yes, Boise once had that.," 30 June 2018 Municipalities regularly sell naming rights to lengths of highway in exchange for a commitment to keep that stretch of road clean. Rob Weinberg, Pomerado News, "Mr. Marketing: Signs of the future," 21 June 2018 In theory, the decision-making process should have been clean. William Langewiesche, The Atlantic, "An Extraordinarily Expensive Way to Fight ISIS," 21 June 2018 An internetless America will be an America without banking, courts of law, medical care, or clean water. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "In Bill Clinton’s New Thriller, the Final Villain is Feminism," 8 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

In 2017, BART’s overtime spending systemwide rose by $2.2 million — but the department charged with keeping stations clean managed to cut its overtime by nearly $1 million, records show. Michael Cabanatuan, San Francisco Chronicle, "BART reining in janitor overtime after public fallout," 30 Apr. 2018 And that required relying on an image of the Kennedys as upstanding, clean-cut, even glamorous public servants. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "The Kennedy family built up a public mythology. TV and movies are taking it apart.," 9 Apr. 2018 Finch, who is remarkably clean-cut for an unwashed anarcho-punk, represents freedom, sexuality and a comfortable racial identity. Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Times, "Review: Deirdre O’Connell Loses Her Grip on Reality in ‘Terminus’," 20 Feb. 2018 Derrick Cardosi, 25, was clean-cut and wearing a white dress shirt and slacks when he was led into Newton County Superior Judge Daniel J. Molter's courtroom Monday by his attorney, Harry Falk. Carrie Napoleon, Post-Tribune, "Jury selection begins in Sumava Resorts stabbing deaths trial," 29 Jan. 2018 An unknown person attempted to open the floor clean-out drain in the men's bathroom at Oct. 6 at 11:41 a.m. from Elm Grove Village Park, 13600 Juneau Blvd. Karen Pilarski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Brookfield-Elm Grove Police Report: Woman refuses to leave drive-thru due to lack of napkin," 12 Oct. 2017 The build-up has been light on trash talk, with Parker living up to his image of being clean-cut and courteous. USA TODAY, "Heavyweight champ Parker hits the road to boost profile," 21 Sep. 2017 Suave, clean-cut, and well-spoken, Macron the candidate seemed like the product of a centrist basement lab. Sarah Jones, New Republic, "Emmanuel Macron Is No Model For Democrats," 25 Aug. 2017 Nowadays, his hair is short, his face clean shaven. Howard Fendrich,, "14 Years After First Wimbledon Win, Federer Eyes Eighth Vs. Cilic," 15 July 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Saliva is responsible for cleaning out food particles and protecting the teeth and gums from bacterial infection, says Alice Boghosian, spokesperson for the American Dental Association. Samantha Lefave, Redbook, "Why You Should Never Ignore Sweet-Smelling Urine (or These Other Body Odors)," 3 Aug. 2018 Less than half of the country’s population has access to clean water and 81% do not use proper toilets. The Economist, "Polio has been reported in Papua New Guinea," 28 June 2018 Corporate contracts announced in 2017 alone amounted to 2.89 gigawatts of new renewable capacity, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit that supports a transition to clean energy. Benjamin Storrow, Scientific American, "Cities Look to “Virtual Power” to Reach Climate Goals," 15 June 2018 Welcome to this presentation of how to really clean your house. J. Harry Jones, Pomerado News, "From Flamenco to mollusks, library workshops had it all," 26 May 2018 Dump the cleaned and chopped vegetables on a sheet pan and toss them with a drizzle of olive oil. Alex Delany, Bon Appetit, "Pesto-y Roasted Vegetables Make Rent Week Bearable," 7 May 2018 Coops will be limited to the owners of single-family homes and must be enclosed on all sides and cleaned regularly to prevent odors. Erin Sauder, Elgin Courier-News, "Revised Carpentersville ordinance lets residents have backyard chicken coops," 2 May 2018 That same breading made excellent crunchy counterpoints to clean and silky fillets of fried catfish. Mike Sutter, San Antonio Express-News, "Review: Get the South out of your mouth at Hoppin’ John," 5 July 2018 Sensitively restored on the outside and repurposed in spanking white on the inside by Selldorf Architects of New York, the cleaned-up, handsome-but-not-fancy, 7,500-square foot building fits right into the neighborhood. Joseph Giovannini, New York Times, "Swiss Institute Has a New Home Ready-Made for Art," 28 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Streetcar companies were required by law to keep paved roads cleans (which cost more once damage from cars was factored in) and keep their prices at five cents per ride. Aditi Shrikant, Vox, "As bus ridership continues to decrease, cities are turning to creative alternatives.," 5 Nov. 2018 The authors' experiment showed that intuition is good science: saliva cleans gilded surfaces in particular better than other cleaners used by conservationists. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Here are your 2018 Ig Nobel Prize winners," 13 Sep. 2018 Clean Don't do the clean without proper instruction. Clay Skipper, GQ, "The 5 Best Exercises at the Gym, According to Personal Trainers," 29 June 2018 Gone was my plan to work on the weekends doing move-out cleans as the town's college students went home for the summer. Stephanie Land,, "For single working parents like me, summer isn't all fun and games," 17 June 2018 In reality, the process works like money laundering: funds pass through a private entity and arrive at a religious school scrubbed clean of their taxpayer origin. Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, "What and who is fueling the movement to privatize public education — and why you should care," 30 May 2018 This clean-up event kicked-off the first of many environmental cleanups done by Anheuser-Busch and their wholesaler partners across the country between Earth Day and World Environment Day in 2018. Staff Report, Houston Chronicle, "Silver Eagle Distributors and Anheuser-Busch help restore Buffalo Bayou Park Meadow damaged by Hurricane Harvey," 27 Apr. 2018 Enter: The Whisk Wiper, an invention by Matthew Michael that saves food, water, and makes whisks the easiest part of the clean-up process. Lauren Smith, House Beautiful, "The Whisk Wiper Will Change Your Baking Game Forever," 2 Nov. 2016 Grunwald, a good-looking teen with a clean-cut reputation and military family, was bludgeoned with a pistol at a camping trailer behind the Almandinger house in Palmer. Zaz Hollander, Anchorage Daily News, "Murder trial for first teen charged in Grunwald slaying begins in Palmer," 15 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'clean.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of clean


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a


circa 1889, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for clean


Middle English clene, going back to Old English clǣne "free from impurities or dirt, unblemished," going back to West Germanic *klainja- (whence also Old Saxon klēni "slender, perceptive," Middle Dutch cleine, clēne "of superior quality, elegant, slender, small," Old High German kleini, chleine "fine, delicate, clever"), of uncertain origin

Note: On the grounds that Low German klīn and Swiss German khlii, with an ablaut grade *klīn-, require a verbal origin, a base *klein-/*klain-/klin- has been suggested, whence Old Norse klína "to smear, butter (bread)," Old High German giklenan "to stroke, smear," from Indo-European *glei̯H- "smear, make stick" (whence, also with a nasal present formation, Old Irish glenaid "(it) adheres, cleaves," Welsh glynu "to stick, adhere"; cf. clay). This derivation would imply for the Germanic adjective an original meaning "smeared on well, carefully applied," hence "well crafted, of superior quality" > "free of impurities, fine, delicate" > "small" (see F. Heidermanns, Etymologisches Wörterbuch der germanischen Primäradjektiven, Berlin, 1993). The earlier proposal of a connection with Indo-European *gel- "bright, shining," is improbable, as none of the descendants of Germanic *klainja- have this meaning.


Middle English clene, going back to Old English clǣne, derivative of clǣne clean entry 1


Middle English clenen "to clear of weeds," derivative of clene clean entry 1


noun derivative of clean entry 3

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Statistics for clean

Last Updated

10 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for clean

The first known use of clean was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for clean



English Language Learners Definition of clean

 (Entry 1 of 4)

: free from dirt, marks, etc. : not dirty

: tending to keep clean

: free from pollution or other dangerous substances



English Language Learners Definition of clean (Entry 2 of 4)

: all the way : completely or entirely



English Language Learners Definition of clean (Entry 3 of 4)

: to make (something) clean : to remove dirt, marks, etc., from (something)

: to become clean

: to make (something, such as a room) neat and orderly



English Language Learners Definition of clean (Entry 4 of 4)

: an act of removing dirt from something


\ˈklēn \
cleaner; cleanest

Kids Definition of clean

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : free of dirt or pollution clean air Put on a clean shirt.

2 : not yet used Use a clean sheet of paper.

3 : not involving or showing involvement with anything wrong or illegal good, clean fun I've got a clean record.

4 : not offensive a clean joke

5 : thorough sense 1 She made a clean break with the past.

6 : having a simple graceful form : trim The ship has clean lines.

7 : smooth entry 1 sense 1 The knife made a clean cut.

Other Words from clean

cleanly \ ˈklēn-​lē \ adverb



Kids Definition of clean (Entry 2 of 3)

: all the way : completely The nail went clean through. Birds picked the bones clean.


cleaned; cleaning

Kids Definition of clean (Entry 3 of 3)

: to make or become free of dirt or disorder I cleaned my room. Please clean up for supper.

Other Words from clean

cleaner noun


\ˈklēn \

Medical Definition of clean 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : free from dirt or pollution

b : free from disease or infectious agents a pullorum-clean flock keep installations clean of TB infection

2 : free from smudges or anything that tends to obscure a clean set of fingerprints

3 of a horse's leg : free from curbs or bunches below the hock

4 : free from drug addiction

Medical Definition of clean (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to brush (the teeth) with a cleanser (as a dentifrice)

2 : to perform dental prophylaxis on (the teeth)

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Legal Definition of clean 

: free of amendments or annotations

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More from Merriam-Webster on clean

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for clean

Spanish Central: Translation of clean

Nglish: Translation of clean for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of clean for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about clean

Comments on clean

What made you want to look up clean? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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