white·​wash | \ ˈhwīt-ˌwȯsh How to pronounce whitewash (audio) , ˈwīt-, -ˌwäsh\
whitewashed; whitewashing; whitewashes

Definition of whitewash

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to whiten with whitewash
2a : to gloss over or cover up (such as vices or crimes) refused to whitewash the scandal
b : to exonerate by means of a perfunctory investigation or through biased presentation of data
3 : to hold (an opponent) scoreless in a game or contest



Definition of whitewash (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a liquid composition for whitening a surface: such as
a : a preparation for whitening the skin
b : a composition (as of lime and water or whiting, size, and water) for whitening structural surfaces
2 : an act or instance of glossing over or of exonerating
3 : a defeat in a contest in which the loser fails to score

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Other Words from whitewash


whitewasher noun

Examples of whitewash in a Sentence


a book that tries to whitewash the country's past refused to whitewash the governor's chronic disregard for the truth

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

But whether or not whitewashing is ultimately part of the PureFlix project, Chu’s comments did attract attention to Ivanhoe Pictures’s version of the story. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "Competing movies about the Thai cave rescue are already in the works," 13 July 2018 Of course, the latter two have been cemented as some of the worst cases of whitewashing in Hollywood. Gabe Bergado, Teen Vogue, "Emma Stone Shouted "I'm Sorry" at the Golden Globes 2019 After Sandra Oh Called Out Whitewashing in "Aloha"," 7 Jan. 2019 Kevin Kwan, the author of the original novel, optioned the movie rights for $1 so that Hollywood wouldn't whitewash it. Emily Wang, Glamour, "Chrissy Teigen Wrote a Beautiful Note About What Crazy Rich Asians Means for Her Daughter," 27 Aug. 2018 When whitewashing brick, Ms. Harris recommended focusing on small sections, a bit at a time. Michelle Higgins, New York Times, "The Brick Wall Dilemma," 6 Mar. 2018 Getty Images This week has seen several developments in the awkward public exchange between Margaret Cho and Tilda Swinton over whitewashing in Doctor Strange. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Read the "Weird" Email Conversation Between Margaret Cho and Tilda Swinton," 17 Dec. 2016 Her initial plan for repurposing the table was to whitewash the legs and stain the top to resemble a darker wooden hue. Rori Kotch, Country Living, "How a $3 Garage Sale Table Got a Beautiful Upgrade," 14 July 2015 Days after the murder, the kingdom made a secret offer to pour billions of dollars into Turkey’s economy and ease its hard-line stance on Qatar if Ankara helped whitewash the scandal. Summer Said, WSJ, "Trump to Navigate Tense Turkish-Saudi Rivalry at G-20," 29 Nov. 2018 Her skin and hair seemed lighter and her nose had been noticeably slimmed down—all of which prompted cries of whitewashing on social media. Andrea Park, Glamour, "The Actress Who Voices Princess Tiana Asked Disney to Address Whitewashing Complaints," 25 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

An investigation commissioned by Democratic leaders concluded that her claims couldn’t be substantiated, though Wardlow has called that a whitewash, noting that the attorney who prepared the report has party connections through her firm. Steve Karnowski, The Seattle Times, "Embattled Ellison launches counterattack on GOP opponent," 25 Oct. 2018 Yet the kingdom has been a respected member of the international community and surely understands a whitewash would severely damage its standing. David B. Rivkin Jr. And Lee A. Casey, WSJ, "Saudi Probe Is Not a Job For the U.N.," 23 Oct. 2018 There was no effort to rewrite, or whitewash, what happened. Michael S. Rosenwald, Washington Post, "Before Justify, there was Eclipse and a horse-racing war between North and South," 19 May 2018 Sensing, quite sensibly, that an N.F.L. whitewash was on its way, one of his victims — a former Panthers employee who remains unnamed — spoke out with a lengthy piece in April in Sports Illustrated. Michael Powell, New York Times, "A Toothless Investigation Slaps Jerry Richardson on the Wrist," 28 June 2018 Although it was derided as a whitewash by some, John Mann, a Labour MP who leads the all-party parliamentary group against anti-Semitism, welcomed the report. The Economist, "Labour’s problem with anti-Semitism," 15 Mar. 2018 But the Vice President of the British Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl, called it a whitewash. James Masters, CNN, "The UK's biggest left wing party is mired in an antisemitism crisis," 28 Mar. 2018 Critics say that could allow a whitewash of history. Washington Post, "Far-right, even racist views go mainstream in Central Europe," 3 Apr. 2018 In particular, American officials were worried that the Mexicans would try to trumpet the involvement of the United States to lend an appearance of credibility to a whitewash, the officials said. Azam Ahmed, New York Times, "Mexico Spyware Inquiry Bogs Down. Skeptics Aren’t Surprised.," 20 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'whitewash.' 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 whitewash


1591, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1678, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for whitewash

Last Updated

10 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for whitewash

The first known use of whitewash was in 1591

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More Definitions for whitewash



English Language Learners Definition of whitewash

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to make (something) whiter by painting it with whitewash
: to prevent people from learning the truth about (something bad, such as a dishonest, immoral, or illegal act or situation)
chiefly British : to defeat (an opponent) easily by winning every game, point, etc.



English Language Learners Definition of whitewash (Entry 2 of 2)

: a white liquid mixture used for making surfaces (such as walls or fences) whiter
disapproving : a planned effort to hide a dishonest, immoral, or illegal act or situation
chiefly British : a defeat in a game or contest in which the loser does not score any points


white·​wash | \ ˈhwīt-ˌwȯsh How to pronounce whitewash (audio) , ˈwīt-, -ˌwäsh\
whitewashed; whitewashing

Kids Definition of whitewash

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to cover with a mixture that whitens
2 : to try to hide the wrongdoing of The company didn't try to whitewash their actions.



Kids Definition of whitewash (Entry 2 of 2)

: a mixture (as of lime and water) for making a surface (as a wall) white

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