clean

1 of 4

adjective

1
a
: 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
2
a
: 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
3
a
: 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 fleshLeviticus 7:19 (Revised Standard Version)
5
a
: 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
6
a
: relatively free from error or blemish : clear
specifically : legible
clean copy
b
: unencumbered
clean bill of sale
7
a
: 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
8
a
: 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

clean

2 of 4

adverb

1
a
: 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

clean

3 of 4

verb

cleaned; cleaning; cleans

transitive verb

1
a
: 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
2
a
: 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
cleanability noun
cleanable adjective

clean

4 of 4

noun

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

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
The clean, bright walls along with colorful rugs and hardwood floors can seem impossible for people living in apartments. Kaitlyn Keegan, Hartford Courant, 3 Feb. 2023 At the end of the dredging, sediment that’s not placed on the beach could be left in the pit and covered with a layer of clean sand. San Diego Union-Tribune, 3 Feb. 2023 Think about it: the record companies forced them to be clean cut and preppy and all those things. Gary Gerard Hamilton, Anchorage Daily News, 3 Feb. 2023 Flathead is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, with clean, crystalline waters cradled in the Flathead Valley by the Mission Mountains to the east and the Salish Mountains to the west. Deb Hopewell, Travel + Leisure, 3 Feb. 2023 Also known as overlock machines, sergers create strong, durable seams and help produce clean fabric edges. Emma Seymour Feb 3, Good Housekeeping, 3 Feb. 2023 Under the auspices of the Sustainable Marblehead Beach Cleaning team, led by Pam Roberts, groups of volunteers clean at least one beach in Marblehead each week, year-round. Bette Keva, BostonGlobe.com, 3 Feb. 2023 Instead, use a clean Q-tip to gently wipe away any excess spray. Leah Campano, Seventeen, 3 Feb. 2023 The clean, green power can then be used to power the motors and onboard amenities. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 2 Feb. 2023
Adverb
Natural Gas: Natural gas is a clean-burning fuel source that is generally less expensive than other fuels. Gannon Burgett, Car and Driver, 28 Mar. 2023 These services sell carbon credits offered by NGOs and governments that, using offset proceeds, plant mangroves, distribute clean-burning stoves, preserve grasslands, and install digesters to capture cooking gas from manure among other types of projects. Time, 21 Oct. 2022 BioLite’s innovative solar, power, and cookstove products make great backpacking companions, but its household products are also directly changing lives in communities where people lack access to electricity, artificial lighting, and clean-burning stoves. Kassondra Cloos, Outside Online, 28 July 2022 But the bill, headed for a Senate vote this week, falls far short of President Joe Biden's pledge to transform the nation’s heavily fossil-fuel powered economy into a clean-burning one and stop climate-damaging emissions from U.S. power plants by 2035. Matthew Daly, Chron, 7 Aug. 2021 The candles are made mostly by artisan candlemakers and are clean-burning and free of some of the most common toxic ingredients. Amanda Prahl, Peoplemag, 25 Feb. 2023 His goal is to transform the nation’s heavily fossil-fuel powered economy into a clean-burning one. Michelle Chapman, Anchorage Daily News, 28 Jan. 2021 Take natural gas, for instance, a clean-burning fuel that plays an important role in the eventual conversion of a greener energy future (once that technology has been fully developed). Ben Warwick, Forbes, 6 Jan. 2023 Both the exterior and the interior couple natural elements — like wood and stone — with more modern design choices, like the clean-lined flower beds at the front of the home and the on-trend light fixtures. Dallas News, 20 Aug. 2022
Verb
In November, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved a $94 million project to clean the mine site. Paul Rogers, The Mercury News, 25 Feb. 2024 Keep in Mind The design is clunky and difficult to clean. Rachel Ahrnsen, Better Homes & Gardens, 25 Feb. 2024 The microfiber mop is great for reaching tight spaces, and the bucket is large enough to clean several rooms without constantly refilling it. Toni Sutton, Peoplemag, 24 Feb. 2024 Related article What — and how — to clean after someone in your household has been sick Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis – often called a stomach bug – in the United States, according to the CDC. Amanda Sealy, CNN, 24 Feb. 2024 Will Reddit moderators keep their subreddits clean enough to attract advertisers? Peter Cohan, Forbes, 23 Feb. 2024 The kinkajou enclosure is not being cleaned regularly because facility personnel are not able to enter the enclosure due to the kinkajou’s aggressive behavior. Ella Gonzales, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 22 Feb. 2024 One such person is the YouTuber Bearded Tesla Guy, who posted a video last week explaining that the rust people have seen on the pickup is actually oxidation and that it can be easily cleaned with household cleaners. Bryan Hood, Robb Report, 22 Feb. 2024 Be sure to clean your refrigerator or any surfaces that may have been contaminated. Mark Kortepeter, Forbes, 14 Feb. 2024
Noun
Plus, the skirt is machine-washable for an easy clean. Nicol Natale, Peoplemag, 24 Feb. 2024 This 12-piece ceramic set is perfect for four and can be thrown in the dishwasher for an easy clean or popped in the microwave to reheat food. Katiee McKinstry, Rolling Stone, 21 Feb. 2024 The microfiber pad provides a streak-free clean that can be washed and reused. Hannah Rice, Rolling Stone, 5 Jan. 2024 The overalls have side and back pockets and are machine washable for an easy clean. Nicol Natale, Peoplemag, 21 Jan. 2024 The waste management company sorts, cleans, shreds, crushes and melts down the toys into materials that are later used to make goods like lunchboxes and flower pots. Stephanie Ebbs, ABC News, 4 Jan. 2024 Each side of the triangle has silicone and rubber grooves in a different size: L should be first for the initial sweep, and then M and S are for deeper cleans. Quincy Bulin, Better Homes & Gardens, 9 Jan. 2024 Choose from three modes: Min mode is best for hardwood floors, medium is ideal for daily cleans, and max is for the toughest dirt and stains. Amy Schulman, Peoplemag, 2 Jan. 2024 Once the worst of the pollen season has passed, use our instructions below for a deep clean of your screens. Southern Living Editors, Southern Living, 30 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'clean.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Adjective

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.

Adverb

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

Verb

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

Noun

noun derivative of clean entry 3

First Known Use

Adjective

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

Adverb

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

Verb

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

Noun

circa 1889, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near clean

Cite this Entry

“Clean.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/clean. Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

clean

1 of 3 adjective
1
: free from dirt or pollution
clean clothes
2
: free of objectionable behavior or language
led a clean life
a clean joke
3
: being such to the fullest degree : complete
made a clean sweep
4
: being precise or distinct : trim
a ship with clean lines
a clean writing style
5
: smooth entry 1 sense 1a
a sharp knife makes a clean cut
cleanness noun

clean

2 of 3 adverb
1
a
: so as to clean
a new broom sweeps clean
b
: in a clean manner
fight clean
2
: all the way
trout leaping clean out of the water

clean

3 of 3 verb
1
: to make or become clean
clean your room
cleaned up for supper
2
: to take or use up the contents or resources of
tourists cleaned out the shops

Medical Definition

clean

1 of 2 adjective
1
a
: 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

clean

2 of 2 transitive verb
1
: to brush (the teeth) with a cleanser (as a dentifrice)
2
: to perform dental prophylaxis on (the teeth)

Legal Definition

clean

adjective
: free of amendments or annotations

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