white·​wash | \ˈhwīt-ˌwȯsh, 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

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 After Asian roles in Hollywood have been whitewashed by Emma Stone and Scarlett Johansson, Crazy Rich Asians’ box office win is gratifying proof that diversity on the big screen does, indeed, sell. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Michelle Yeoh Hopes Crazy Rich Asians Will Turn the Trickle of Diversity in Hollywood "Into a Stream"," 27 Aug. 2018 Kai is often unfairly called out for having a deeper skin tone than the other members of EXO, and in photos, he's known for being whitewashed via editing. Devon Abelman, Allure, "Why a Fenty Beauty Collaboration With EXO's Kai Would Be a Game Changer," 27 Aug. 2018 Kevin optioned the book for just $1 in order to retain creative control and keep Hollywood from whitewashing the cast. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "Ross Butler Shared How Proud Watching "Crazy Rich Asians" Made Him Feel," 9 Aug. 2018 The 36-year-old actress has been an outspoken critic of whitewashing roles and an advocate for diversity and representation on-screen. Brooke Hauser, Marie Claire, "Constance Wu Is Taking It Upon Herself to Diversify Hollywood," 24 Aug. 2018 This Edgewood neighborhood hangout is hipster heaven, with concrete floors, vintage Persian rugs, whitewashed cinder block walls, and ample sunlight. Jennifer Bradley Franklin, Condé Nast Traveler, "10 Best Coffee Shops in Atlanta," 22 Aug. 2018 And then, in a real Mark Twain moment, Elon Musk, in the fashion of Tom Sawyer when whitewashing the fence, open-sourced the hyperloop project, and challenged the works, essentially tricking his friends into picking up the paintbrush. Popular Mechanics Editors, Popular Mechanics, "In Defense of Elon Musk," 16 Oct. 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

15 Dec 2018

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)

: 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

: a planned effort to hide a dishonest, immoral, or illegal act or situation

: a defeat in a game or contest in which the loser does not score any points


white·​wash | \ˈhwīt-ˌwȯsh, 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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Comments on whitewash

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a nest or breeding place

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