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 But critics worry the new standards, like the board’s ban of critical race theory last month, are an effort to whitewash history and prevent schools from tackling difficult subjects such as slavery. Leslie Postal, orlandosentinel.com, 14 July 2021 But whereas some fear that this is yet another effort to whitewash Texas history — something the state has been doing for years now — one historian sees it as an opportunity to teach the truth. Los Angeles Times, 10 June 2021 Then, there began a campaign to whitewash history, starting at the top. New York Times, 30 June 2021 African-Americans, who believe themselves to be appointed custodians of that history, saw it as an attempt to whitewash history. Pamela Sneed, Harper's BAZAAR, 25 June 2021 Teachers' unions, educators and social studies organizations worry the limits will whitewash American history by downplaying the role past injustices still play today. Bryan Anderson, Star Tribune, 24 June 2021 This undermines Republican efforts to whitewash the January 6 insurrection. Marshall Cohen, CNN, 17 June 2021 The British Museum does not attempt to whitewash Nero. Jonathon Keats, Forbes, 17 June 2021 The discovery brings partial closure to a painful chapter of Japanese history that still plays out today, as conservative Japanese politicians attempt to whitewash history, leading to friction with wartime victims, especially China and South Korea. NBC News, 14 June 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun This failed to convince many, and looked like a whitewash. David Hambling, Forbes, 25 June 2021 If the public perceives the commission is a whitewash, distrust in the scientific community will erode further. Martin Kulldorff And Jay Bhattacharya, WSJ, 27 June 2021 Zero trust has quickly become a whitewash in the cybersecurity industry. Will Townsend, Forbes, 18 June 2021 Where another architect might have finessed the multiple runs of stairs, Laplace did nothing but give the treads a good whitewash. WSJ, 24 Apr. 2021 The report, released in early 2020, was mostly a whitewash, full of vague language about improving leadership and accountability. Seth Harp, Rolling Stone, 18 Apr. 2021 Washington was shut out for the second straight game, although Wednesday’s whitewash was the back end of a seven-inning doubleheader. Greg Beacham, ajc, 10 Apr. 2021 Washington was shut out for the second straight game, although Wednesday's whitewash was the back end of a seven-inning doubleheader. Greg Beacham, Star Tribune, 9 Apr. 2021 The document is best understood as a whitewash heavily influenced by the Chinese Communist Party and Westerners with conflicts of interest. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 30 Mar. 2021

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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The first known use of whitewash was in 1591

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Last Updated

24 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Whitewash.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whitewash. Accessed 29 Jul. 2021.

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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

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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