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

Keep scrolling for more

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 Meanwhile, the government continues to whitewash Stalin’s crimes. Jennifer Wilson, The New Yorker, "A Poet Reflects on Europe’s Last Dictatorship," 29 Nov. 2020 The discovery that Alfred and Ceolwulf minted coins in the same style offered surprising evidence of an alliance between them—one that Alfred had sought to whitewash in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, "The Curse of the Buried Treasure," 9 Nov. 2020 As this Cuban military hero was being publicly immortalized, white Cuban authorities made sure to whitewash his body, or at least his skull. Griffin Black, Scientific American, "The Whitewashing of Black Genius," 12 Oct. 2020 Those decisions have indirectly helped Beijing to whitewash its early failures in handling the outbreak. New York Times, "In Hunt for Virus Source, W.H.O. Let China Take Charge," 4 Nov. 2020 There was no insidious plot by the Indianapolis Colts to whitewash Andrew Luck from your hearts and minds. Jim Ayello, The Indianapolis Star, "The weird reason why DeMichael Harris wears No. 12 that has nothing to do with Andrew Luck," 20 Oct. 2020 Douglass and Maceo achieved greatness in the pursuit of these universal ideals and could not be eclipsed by those seeking to whitewash Black genius. Griffin Black, Scientific American, "The Whitewashing of Black Genius," 12 Oct. 2020 Losing four or five of every 10 young Latter-day Saints is not something to whitewash, even if Catholics and mainline Protestants are losing even more adherents in this challenging religious landscape. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Jana Riess: Controversial Latter-day Saint book pulled from publication," 8 Sep. 2020 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Thanksgiving is increasingly portrayed as, at best, based on falsehoods and, at worst, a whitewash of genocide against Native Americans. Rich Lowry, National Review, "Thanksgiving Is Not a Lie," 26 Nov. 2020 González was on the brink of unconsciousness when a rescue jet ski swooped in to save him from the swirling whitewash. Kade Krichko, Outside Online, "Training for Big-Wave Surfing? It's All in Your Head.," 22 Nov. 2020 Aspiring referees who happen to be Black have no whitewash of role models in that regard, with African-Americans heading four of the league’s 17 crews. Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Significance of NFL's first all-Black officiating crew matters much in 2020," 19 Nov. 2020 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

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.

See More

First Known Use of whitewash


1591, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1678, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about whitewash

Time Traveler for whitewash

Time Traveler

The first known use of whitewash was in 1591

See more words from the same year

Statistics for whitewash

Cite this Entry

“Whitewash.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whitewash. Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on whitewash

What made you want to look up whitewash? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

February 2021 Words of the Day Quiz

  • squirrel in winter
  • Which is a synonym of perdure?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!