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

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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 Officials had repeatedly blocked Mr. Li’s attempts to publish the photos, part of a broader effort by the ruling Communist Party to whitewash that turbulent chapter. Amy Qin, BostonGlobe.com, "Li Zhensheng, photographer of China’s cultural revolution, at 79," 7 July 2020 Historians and activists say these monuments, erected at the height of the Civil Rights movement, were attempts to whitewash the history of the Civil War and silence those fighting for their rights almost a century later. Grace Oldham, The Arizona Republic, "Some Arizona veterans call on Ducey to remove Confederate monument," 25 June 2020 Critics remain skeptical, claiming that the polarizing Crown Prince Mohammed is attempting to whitewash his image, tainted by the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi abroad and the jailing of human rights activists at home. Taylor Luck, The Christian Science Monitor, "Art in the forbidden zone: Inside the Saudi cultural awakening," 27 May 2020 At Chris Bianco’s whitewashed trattoria, chef Cassie Shortino makes some of the best fresh pasta in town. Dominic Armato, azcentral, "Torn between cooking and takeout? Try these 10 meal kits from metro Phoenix restaurants," 6 May 2020 In 2013, the developer whitewashed 5Pointz while a suit for the right to salvage the art was pending. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "5Pointz graffiti has now made an indelible mark on the law and art," 21 Feb. 2020 Fans of the novels rightly wouldn’t have taken too well to the character of Lara Jean — whose Korean heritage specifically connects her to her late mother — being whitewashed. Kaitlin Reilly, refinery29.com, "Lana Condor On Asian-American Representation: “We Don’t Get Cinderella Moments”," 4 Feb. 2020 Years of studios centering Asian movies around white protagonists (from Scarlett Johansson's Ghost in the Shell to Matt Damon's The Great Wall) meant the threat of whitewashing loomed large. Rebecca Ford, The Hollywood Reporter, "Inside Disney's Bold $200M Gamble on 'Mulan': "The Stakes Couldn't Be Higher"," 26 Feb. 2020 China is waging an information war to whitewash its handling of the virus and impugn the U.S. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Controlling the Virus Narrative," 22 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun It was converted into a mosque in 1453, when the Ottomans conquered Istanbul, with minarets placed around its perimeter, its mosaics covered in whitewash. Washington Post, "Turkish court clears path for Hagia Sophia museum to become a mosque again," 10 July 2020 Eleven of the men were put on trial behind closed doors in Saudi Arabia, but the proceedings in Riyadh have been widely criticized as a whitewash. Fox News, "Saudi officials go on trial in absentia in Turkey for Khashoggi murder," 4 July 2020 Civil-rights activists, expecting a whitewash, were stunned. Jill Lepore, The New Yorker, "The History of the “Riot” Report," 15 June 2020 An official report into the protests was a whitewash. The Economist, "We love to see you burn Autocrats gleefully decry America’s racial turmoil," 11 June 2020 The mural features imagery that shows Native Americans and settlers contentedly working side-by-side, which Native students say whitewashes the history of the region. oregonlive, "Xenophobia during coronavirus scare and nooses in schools: Portland superintendent decries racist incidents," 4 Mar. 2020 Mazsihisz has led protest actions against the right-wing government of Viktor Orban, including on the government’s decision to erect a monument that Mazsihisz and other critics said whitewashes Hungarian complicity during the Holocaust. Cnaan Liphshiz, sun-sentinel.com, "Chabad of Hungary gets status upgrade from government," 19 Nov. 2019 The bad news for Michigan State, however, is their most recent outing two weeks ago was a whitewash at the hands of Wisconsin. Eddie Timanus, USA TODAY, "Five games in Week 9 that will impact the College Football Playoff race," 20 Sep. 2019 The Prince of Providence’’ would not be faithful to Stanton’s tough-minded book, that the stage adaptation would be a whitewash, a sanitized picture of Cianci as just a lovable rogue. BostonGlobe.com, "In a sense, he even manages to learn the theater game. Via an ingenious denouement to “The Prince of Providence’’ that I shall not spoil but that feels consistent both to the character we’ve been watching and the man we remember, Buddy Cianci gets the last word.," 18 Sep. 2019

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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Time Traveler for whitewash

Time Traveler

The first known use of whitewash was in 1591

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Statistics for whitewash

Last Updated

11 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Whitewash.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whitewash. Accessed 14 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for whitewash


How to pronounce whitewash (audio)

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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