\ ˈklēn How to pronounce clean (audio) \

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.

Other Words from clean


cleanability \ ˌklē-​nə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce clean (audio) \ noun
cleanable \ ˈklē-​nə-​bəl How to pronounce clean (audio) \ adjective

Examples of clean in a Sentence

Adjective 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. Adverb 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. Verb 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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Ultimately, officials believe the investment will result in a local influx of licensed childcare professionals, skilled workers to develop clean energy infrastructure, and careers in healthcare with opportunities for advancement. Andrew Brinker,, 3 Aug. 2022 Mainland clean tech plays such as EV, solar, and wind were off after light earnings from Longi Green Energy -4.58%. Brendan Ahern, Forbes, 3 Aug. 2022 The push has split clean-vehicle proponents, with some advocating for looser guidelines to get more electric cars on the road quickly, as others argue the provisions are crucial to shoring up a dangerously unstable supply chain. Evan Halper, Washington Post, 3 Aug. 2022 Home Forward, the largest affordable housing provider in Oregon, is a distributor with the city’s clean energy program, but many of its low-income residents were left without air conditioners during the heat wave. oregonlive, 2 Aug. 2022 Bianchi presents as a charming, mild-mannered and clean-cut young man who once worked as a security guard. Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times, 2 Aug. 2022 The contrasting combination of the minty blue tile, warm brass hardware, and crisp white walls creates a clean look that allows the details to shine. Maria Sabella, Better Homes & Gardens, 2 Aug. 2022 Air purifiers are rated by their clean air delivery rate, or CADR rating, which measures how many cubic feet of air per minute is cleaned. Jake Smith, Glamour, 2 Aug. 2022 If an ingredient doesn't match this definition of clean, then Alder won't use it. Melanie Curry, Good Housekeeping, 2 Aug. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Some clean-eating plans even eschew whole-food staples like dairy, grains, and naturally occurring sugars. Christine Byrne, Outside Online, 14 Mar. 2019 The three — Robert Kramer and Libbie Pelter, at Purdue’s Northwest campus in Hammond, and John Patterson, at the West Lafayette campus — have developed a process to produce hydrogen, a clean-burning fuel, from food waste. Tim Zorn, Chicago Tribune, 7 July 2022 Very clean-tasting, with a hint of orange-creamsickle notes and some tangerine. cleveland, 8 May 2022 And while enthusiasm marked the conversation on clean-burning hydrogen, some sounded caution about how the technology is scaled up. Denise Chow, NBC News, 12 May 2022 At the same time, the gas company notes that hydrogen could dramatically reduce hazardous air pollution from heavy-duty trucks, estimating that Angeles Link could deliver enough clean-burning fuel to displace 3 million gallons of diesel each day. Sammy Rothstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 21 Mar. 2022 New research and a slew of industry announcements promise clean-burning hydrogen at $1 per kilogram will displace fossil fuels used in industries from steel to shipping. Michael J. Coren, Quartz, 29 Dec. 2021 Without the mess of ash and soot, these clean-burning units require much less upkeep than traditional wood-burning fireplaces, but a bit of gas fireplace maintenance is essential to keep yours in top shape. Jessica Bennett, Better Homes & Gardens, 11 Oct. 2021 The steel was produced using HYBRIT (Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology), which uses electricity from renewable sources to create the clean-burning gas. David Kindy, Smithsonian Magazine, 1 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The unofficial start of the Detroit Tigers' rebuild has long been seen as the trade deadline in July 2017, when the team began to clean house. Tony Garcia, Detroit Free Press, 4 Aug. 2022 Riefler landed on the idea of extracting iron oxide from the polluted water and turning it into color pigments, which could be sold to further fund the clean-up of AMD. Chelsea Lee, CNN, 2 Aug. 2022 Just about anything these people owned that could have helped with the clean-up had been lost to the storm, too. Maggie Menderski, The Courier-Journal, 30 July 2022 The city says the main street will be closed to regular traffic for five hours on Friday, and in the run-up to the visit volunteers were invited to join in a clean-up of the downtown area. Rob Gillies And David Crary, Anchorage Daily News, 28 July 2022 So even on the busiest days, a cozy dinner is just minutes away, and the clean-up is easy, too! Craving some comfort food and casserole dishes this season? Becca Miller, Good Housekeeping, 25 July 2022 Help keep our beaches plastic-free at a clean-up in Long Beach. Matt Pawlik, Los Angeles Times, 21 July 2022 Previously split into two lots, redevelopment of the corner would include razing the existing buildings to make way for the clean-up of environmental contamination. Beck Andrew Salgado, Journal Sentinel, 20 July 2022 The contractor appointed for the clean-up claimed that four trucks of fish were removed from the site. Quartz, 19 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Ian Somerhalder gets to work at a beach clean-up with the Shiseido Blue Project and WSL PURE during the 2022 US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, California, on Aug. 3. People Staff, Peoplemag, 6 Aug. 2022 Once shelter and housing are made available, the team will conduct anticamping enforcement and camp clean-up. Summer Lin, Los Angeles Times, 4 Aug. 2022 As the sailors returned to the water Saturday, Kilroy, a leader in sustainable real estate development and a sponsor of U.S. Sailing, hosted the Sea Change Festival beach clean-up to further their collective efforts to protect oceans. Myah Taylor, Los Angeles Times, 16 July 2022 The Marine Environment Protection Authority said on its Facebook page Tuesday that six clean-ups were being conducted at 14 locations. NBC News, 2 June 2021 Environmental awareness is brought into the guest programming with initiatives including beach clean-ups on neighboring islands. Lauren Jade Hill, Forbes, 16 Apr. 2021 This model features a ceramic enamel interior, which reduces interior scratching and allows for easier clean-up. Jamie Kim, Good Housekeeping, 8 July 2022 When a more heavy-duty clean is necessary, spring for YUNI’s large shower sheets. Elizabeth Berry And Samantha Lawyer, Woman's Day, 13 June 2022 This shampoo delivers a salon-quality clean that is usually possible only from professional stylists and luxury products that cost twice as much. Grooming Playbook, The Salt Lake Tribune, 20 May 2022 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for clean

Time Traveler

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

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clean and jerk

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Last Updated

6 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Clean.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for clean


\ ˈklēn How to pronounce clean (audio) \
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 How to pronounce clean (audio) \

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


transitive verb

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)



Legal Definition of clean

: free of amendments or annotations

More from Merriam-Webster on clean

Nglish: Translation of clean for Spanish Speakers

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


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