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

Definition of whitewash

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to whiten with whitewash a freshly whitewashed wall a row of whitewashed cottages "Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?"— Mark Twain
2a : to gloss over or cover up (something, such as a record of criminal behavior) refused to whitewash the scandal In the years following the Nuremberg trials, there was an increasingly concerted effort to whitewash the record of the Wehrmacht, the armed forces of the Third Reich.— Rob Zacny
b : to exonerate (someone) by means of a perfunctory investigation or through biased presentation of data … seemed to be trying to tell the full story without trying to whitewash the dictator or conceal his atrocities.— Ronald Hingley
3 informal : to hold (an opponent) scoreless in a game or contest He stopped 38 shots to shut out the Oilers on Feb. 9; 39 in blanking the Rangers on Nov. 12; and 45 in whitewashing the Avalanche on Oct. 30.— Austin Murphy
4 : to alter (something) in a way that favors, features, or caters to white people: such as
a : to portray (the past) in a way that increases the prominence, relevance, or impact of white people and minimizes or misrepresents that of nonwhite people … touches obliquely on Jones' assertion that the mayor and other white city leaders want to "whitewash" the telling of our nation's civil rights struggles.— Jeff Gauger
b : to alter (an original story) by casting a white performer in a role based on a nonwhite person or fictional character It was important to Jenny Han, author of the YA books To All the Boys I've Loved Before, that the film adaption would keep one key detail: that the lead character, Lara Jean, was Asian-American. In a new essay …, Han revealed that nearly every production company interested in adapting her best-selling book into a movie asked to whitewash it.— Hunter Harris The Hollywood screenwriter Max Landis has denied defending the casting of Scarlett Johansson in a "whitewashed" remake of the classic Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell.— Ben Child



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

Other Words from whitewash


whitewasher noun
whitewashing noun
a wall that requires whitewashing There shall be no whitewashing of Lizzie Eustace. She was abominable. — Anthony Trollope Including his Game 2 whitewashing of the A's, he'd allowed just three earned runs in his last 92 2/3 innings … — Peter Gammons In so many parts of the world, culture rooted in black communities has at one point or another faced attempts at whitewashing: Just look at all the buttoned-up white jazz ensembles that emerged across the United States in the early 20th century. — Sebastian Modak

Examples of whitewash in a Sentence

Verb 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 Then, in the nineteen-eighties, a cadre of right-wing Japanese politicians and intellectuals attempted to whitewash the atrocities committed in Nanjing by rewriting school textbooks about the events. Simon Parkin, The New Yorker, 20 Sep. 2022 Hammer would later make sizable donations to causes championed by Prince Charles, allegedly in an effort to whitewash his reputation, before George Bush ultimately pardoned him in 1989. Nina Metz, Chicago Tribune, 2 Sep. 2022 To his credit, Kwiatkowski isn’t working to totally whitewash last season’s failings. Nick Moyle, San Antonio Express-News, 3 Aug. 2022 Differing views of what makes a place orderly are playing out in a neighborhood in Mexico City – where street vendors have been told to whitewash their colorful stalls. Whitney Eulich, The Christian Science Monitor, 26 July 2022 As court testimony detailed, the millions that Skadden Arps made to whitewash Yanukovych came from one figure in particular: Pinchuk. Casey Michel, The New Republic, 12 May 2022 Further, the January 6 insurrection -- and the Republicans who have attempted to whitewash what happened on that terrible day -- has tarnished the GOP's image as the tough on crime party of law enforcement. Charlie Dent, CNN, 18 Jan. 2022 Referendums in Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk were supposed to whitewash Russia’s actions but were marked by election fraud, pre-marked ballots and intimidation. Robyn Dixon, Washington Post, 21 July 2022 Every story reads like a novel; a jaw-dropping, eye-opening, frightening marathon of dark underbelly sordid stuff that most historians have tried to whitewash and hide from our eyes. J.d. Crowe | Jdcrowe@al.com, al, 24 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Incorporate the homey texture of whitewash wood into your Christmas mantel display. Megan Boettcher, Better Homes & Gardens, 28 Aug. 2022 Del Norte started with a 46-0 whitewash of Escondido. John Maffei, San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 Aug. 2022 After having spent a whole lot of time in the South, there’s just such a tremendous pride about their culture and their heritage, their history, that to not have it in the movie felt to us like a bit of a whitewash. Ben Flanagan | Bflanagan@al.com, al, 5 July 2022 The cabinetry is reclaimed brown face pine — from a barn in Purcellville, Va. — that Allen treated with a simulated whitewash. Kathy Orton, Washington Post, 3 June 2022 But the public-facing image is a portrait in whitewash. New York Times, 8 June 2022 The cuts have led opponents to accuse Johnson of a whitewash. Jill Lawless, Anchorage Daily News, 31 Jan. 2022 In nearby Santa María Huiramangaro, restorers began stripping whitewash from the church’s 16th-century altarpiece in 2014 after villagers approached I.N.A.H. with concerns about cracks in the chancel walls. New York Times, 11 Feb. 2022 Portland takes 4 games and outscores Spokane 30-9, being dominant without getting the whitewash. Dylan Bumbarger, oregonlive, 16 Feb. 2022 See More

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.

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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The first known use of whitewash was in 1591

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Last Updated

22 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Whitewash.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whitewash. Accessed 29 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for whitewash


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

More from Merriam-Webster on whitewash

Nglish: Translation of whitewash for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of whitewash for Arabic Speakers


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