\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

Until very recently, the platform — which is the biggest on the market — did not hire any moderators to keep Steam’s forums clean. Patricia Hernandez, The Verge, "The game store that outshines Steam by staying small and weird," 29 Nov. 2018 Sand-free mat: Keep your van clean by using a large sand-free mat at the entry. Megan Barber, Curbed, "The ultimate van life shopping guide," 14 Nov. 2018 Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Woman's Day Test Kitchen, Woman's Day, "Forest Friends Cake," 25 Oct. 2018 The Duchess of Sussex opted for two completely streamlined, clean, and minimal silhouettes for her ceremony and reception, by Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy and Stella McCartney respectively. Carrie Goldberg, Harper's BAZAAR, "All the Details of Eugenie's Second Wedding Dress–Compared to Meghan Markle's," 14 Oct. 2018 Before the house is flooded with the sounds and smells of the holiday, deliberately set aside an hour for everyone to do their own thing with no obligations to cook, clean, or make conversation. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "12 Thanksgiving Tradition Ideas for the Best Holiday Ever," 28 Aug. 2018 Divide the cake batter equally between the two prepared cake pans and bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted through the center comes out clean. Nik Sharma,, "A Brown Kitchen: Mango layer cake for a fresh summer treat," 11 July 2018 Place batter into mini muffin liners and bake for 15-20 mins or until a cake tester or knife comes out clean., "These Vanilla Cupcakes Are Made With Cauliflower—and You’d Never Know It," 10 July 2018 The one wild card in all this is that Microsoft has never really come clean about what its Surface Connector can or can’t do, precisely because only Microsoft devices interface with it. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Microsoft's $80 Surface USB-C dongle suggests there'll be no new Surface Dock," 25 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

Charlottesville has long outgrown its patrician Jeffersonian roots to become a mecca for artists and musicians, youthful retirees, and clean-cut techies. James Loeffler, WSJ, "The Struggle for Charlottesville," 10 Aug. 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Post after post details how a kindly camper owner has cleaned, flushed, and added holding tank deodorant—yet, much to their dismay, a noxious smell still permeates their home on wheels. Megan Barber, Curbed, "RV toilets: Why I’ll never have a bathroom in my camper," 1 Nov. 2018 Oil and gas executives strive to maintain company profits, which seemingly means doing everything in their power to hold back the transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy. Izzi Graj, Teen Vogue, "Climate Change Needs to Be an Important Platform for Elected Leaders, and Here’s Why," 14 Sep. 2018 Fresh Rose Cleansing Foam is a daily wash that will clean, soothe, and hydrate your complexion. Aliza Kelly Faragher, Allure, "What August's Pisces Horoscope Means for You," 30 July 2018 For more information on how to clean your car, click here. Indianapolis Star, "Spring Cleaning for Your Car," 14 June 2018 Rudolph’s father was a railroad porter, and her mother cleaned white families’ houses while raising children in a basic wooden house with no electricity. Kate Siber, Outside Online, "How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman," 8 June 2018 In fact, a 2018 report from global advocacy group WaterAid put India at the top of its list of countries with the worst access to clean water close to homes—163 million Indians live this way. Kamakshi Ayyar, Time, "The Global Water Crisis: Why Are India’s Taps Running Dry?," 6 June 2018 Others demonstrated how mini-wind turbines worked or used a water filtration to clean dirty water, said Stephanie Czapka, the school’s PTO vice president and a former elementary school teacher who helped organize it. Meredith Colias-pete, Post-Tribune, "Munster science program for elementary students run by parents expands," 1 June 2018 Gravity-powered, the sleek stainless steel system cleans even the murkiest pond water of viruses, bacteria, pathogens and other nastiness. Jeff Bercovici, WSJ, "The Upscale Way to Prepare for Doomsday—from $79,500 Teslas to $275 Jeans," 10 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In an ideal world, this would be a top-to-bottom clean involving every room in your home, the organization explains. Colleen Stinchcombe, SELF, "13 Ways to Triumph Over Fall Allergies," 13 Nov. 2018 In a clean mixing bowl, whip heavy whipping cream to soft peaks. Terri Milligan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Thanks, Mom: Readers share food legacy their mothers left them," 8 May 2018 In a clean mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press, "Sunday Dinner at Grandma's dining series celebrates one year with soul food," 6 Feb. 2018 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

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

8 Dec 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 make faulty or ineffective

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