clean

1 of 4

adjective

1
a
: free from dirt or pollution
changed to clean clothes
clean solar energy
b
: free from contamination or disease
a clean wound
c
: free or relatively free from radioactivity
a clean atomic explosion
2
a
: unadulterated, pure
the clean thrill of one's first flight
b
of a precious stone : having no interior flaws visible
c
: free from growth that hinders tillage
clean farmland
3
a
: free from moral corruption or sinister connections of any kind
a candidate with a clean record
also : free from violations
a clean driving record
b
: free from offensive treatment of sexual subjects and from the use of obscenity
a clean joke
c
: observing the rules : fair
a clean fight
4
: ceremonially or spiritually pure
and all who are clean may eat fleshLeviticus 7:19 (Revised Standard Version)
5
a
: thorough, complete
a clean break with the past
b
: deftly executed : skillful
clean ballet technique
The gymnast made a clean landing.
c
: hit beyond the reach of an opponent
a clean single to center
6
a
: relatively free from error or blemish : clear
specifically : legible
clean copy
b
: unencumbered
clean bill of sale
7
a
: characterized by clarity and precision : trim
a clean prose style
architecture with clean almost austere lines
b
: even, smooth
a clean edge
a sharp blow causing a clean break
c
: free from external hindrances to smooth flow (as of water or air)
a clean airplane
a ship with a clean bottom
8
a
: empty
the ship returned with a clean hold
b
: free from drug addiction
has been clean for six months
c
slang : having no contraband (such as weapons or drugs) in one's possession
All visitors to the prison are searched to make sure they're clean.
d
of a computer : not having anything added by a user
installed the software on a clean computer
9
: habitually neat

clean

2 of 4

adverb

1
a
: so as to clean
a new broom sweeps clean
b
: in a clean manner
play the game clean
2
: all the way : completely
the bullet went clean through his arm

clean

3 of 4

verb

cleaned; cleaning; cleans

transitive verb

1
a
: to make clean: such as
(1)
: to rid of dirt, impurities, or extraneous matter
clean a wound
(2)
: to rid of corruption
vowing to clean up city hall
b
: remove, eradicate
usually used with up or off
clean up that mess
2
a
: strip, empty
a tree cleaned of fruit
b
: to remove the entrails from
clean fish
c
: to deprive of money or possessions
often used with out
they cleaned him out completely

intransitive verb

: to undergo or perform a process of cleaning
clean up before dinner
cleanability noun
cleanable adjective

clean

4 of 4

noun

: an act of cleaning dirt especially from the surface of something
She gave the tub a good clean.
Phrases
clean house
1
: to clean a house and its furniture
2
: to make sweeping reforms or changes (as of personnel)
clean one's clock
: to beat one badly in a fight or competition
clean up one's act
: to behave in a more acceptable manner

Example Sentences

Adjective This table isn't clean. There's a sticky spot where something spilled. He keeps a very clean house. The janitor does a good job of keeping the office clean. I wiped the baby's face clean. He's a clean young man. Cats are very clean animals. Solar power provides clean energy. Adverb Somehow, the top of the machine came clean off. The nail went clean through the wall. The fish were jumping clean out of the water. Verb The carpet needs to be cleaned. They divide household duties so that she cleans and her husband cooks. They cleaned the fish and cooked them on the campfire. skin and clean a rabbit See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
The clean, bright walls along with colorful rugs and hardwood floors can seem impossible for people living in apartments. Kaitlyn Keegan, Hartford Courant, 3 Feb. 2023 At the end of the dredging, sediment that’s not placed on the beach could be left in the pit and covered with a layer of clean sand. San Diego Union-Tribune, 3 Feb. 2023 Think about it: the record companies forced them to be clean cut and preppy and all those things. Gary Gerard Hamilton, Anchorage Daily News, 3 Feb. 2023 Flathead is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, with clean, crystalline waters cradled in the Flathead Valley by the Mission Mountains to the east and the Salish Mountains to the west. Deb Hopewell, Travel + Leisure, 3 Feb. 2023 Also known as overlock machines, sergers create strong, durable seams and help produce clean fabric edges. Emma Seymour Feb 3, Good Housekeeping, 3 Feb. 2023 Under the auspices of the Sustainable Marblehead Beach Cleaning team, led by Pam Roberts, groups of volunteers clean at least one beach in Marblehead each week, year-round. Bette Keva, BostonGlobe.com, 3 Feb. 2023 Instead, use a clean Q-tip to gently wipe away any excess spray. Leah Campano, Seventeen, 3 Feb. 2023 The clean, green power can then be used to power the motors and onboard amenities. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 2 Feb. 2023
Adverb
Take natural gas, for instance, a clean-burning fuel that plays an important role in the eventual conversion of a greener energy future (once that technology has been fully developed). Ben Warwick, Forbes, 6 Jan. 2023 Both the exterior and the interior couple natural elements — like wood and stone — with more modern design choices, like the clean-lined flower beds at the front of the home and the on-trend light fixtures. Dallas News, 20 Aug. 2022 Under the original plan, the high-tech new plant in Mattoon would have turned coal into a clean-burning gas and would then have filtered out the Co2. Andrew Moseman, Discover Magazine, 9 Aug. 2010 Together, all these farms give rise to Vermont’s clean-eating culture. Outside Online, 14 Oct. 2022 Solar power and wind power are growing fast in the Netherlands, and now interest is shifting to hydrogen, a clean-burning fuel that companies are betting will be used in large volumes to store energy and power heavy vehicles and heavy industry. Clifford Krauss, New York Times, 18 Oct. 2022 Some clean-eating plans even eschew whole-food staples like dairy, grains, and naturally occurring sugars. Christine Byrne, Outside Online, 14 Mar. 2019 The three — Robert Kramer and Libbie Pelter, at Purdue’s Northwest campus in Hammond, and John Patterson, at the West Lafayette campus — have developed a process to produce hydrogen, a clean-burning fuel, from food waste. Tim Zorn, Chicago Tribune, 7 July 2022 Very clean-tasting, with a hint of orange-creamsickle notes and some tangerine. cleveland, 8 May 2022
Verb
This bed is very high quality, sturdy and easy to clean. Meg Donohue, Town & Country, 3 Feb. 2023 This table runner is rated highly for being wrinkle-free, stain resistant and easy to clean. Alyssa Gautieri, Good Housekeeping, 3 Feb. 2023 Also, the MistAire is easy to clean, which is rare for small humidifiers. Neha Tandon, Women's Health, 1 Feb. 2023 Resin is easy to clean with soapy water and a cloth. Megan Boettcher, Better Homes & Gardens, 31 Jan. 2023 Lightweight and easy to clean, these running shoes are comfortable and durable for long-term wear. Kaitlyn Mcinnis, Travel + Leisure, 24 Jan. 2023 Plus, the sleek, ABS plastic shell is durable and easy to clean. Mike Richard, Men's Health, 24 Jan. 2023 This tongue scraper is also easy to clean since it’s made of quality metal. Lacey Muinos, Health, 23 Jan. 2023 Designed and made in Italy, this mid-size duffel bag has leather handles and is made in a leather-effect material that’s water-resistant and easy to clean. Angelina Villa-clarke, Forbes, 23 Jan. 2023
Noun
The brush roller is designed to fit right up against baseboards and into corners for a more thorough clean, which is especially important when cleaning your bathroom floors. Terri Williams, Better Homes & Gardens, 22 Dec. 2022 While there are several different ways air purifiers work, the best way to keep the air in a home clean is to utilize both an air filter and an air purifier. Monica Cull, Discover Magazine, 14 Dec. 2022 For: Eco-conscious men looking for a thorough clean that won’t rough their skin up. Dallas News, 30 Nov. 2022 Get a load of this robot vacuum that picks up and wipes away dust and grime in a single clean. Christian Gollayan, Men's Health, 22 Nov. 2022 Included in Oprah’s List of Favorite Things and loved by many dentists, this rechargeable smart toothbrush uses micro-vibrations to achieve a complete clean. Vanessa Powell, ELLE, 21 Nov. 2022 In addition to size, the cooling dog bed also boasts a hassle-free clean. Jessie Quinn, Peoplemag, 3 Nov. 2022 Then proceed with giving your pan a final clean with warm water and dish soap. Marygrace Taylor, SELF, 12 Oct. 2022 Whatever your hair type, Alvarez recommends switching up your shampoo after a while so your hair doesn't get used to one product, and adding a clarifying shampoo into your routine occasionally for a deep clean. Jacqueline Saguin, Good Housekeeping, 17 Aug. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'clean.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Adjective

Middle English clene, going back to Old English clǣne "free from impurities or dirt, unblemished," going back to West Germanic *klainja- (whence also Old Saxon klēni "slender, perceptive," Middle Dutch cleine, clēne "of superior quality, elegant, slender, small," Old High German kleini, chleine "fine, delicate, clever"), of uncertain origin

Note: On the grounds that Low German klīn and Swiss German khlii, with an ablaut grade *klīn-, require a verbal origin, a base *klein-/*klain-/klin- has been suggested, whence Old Norse klína "to smear, butter (bread)," Old High German giklenan "to stroke, smear," from Indo-European *glei̯H- "smear, make stick" (whence, also with a nasal present formation, Old Irish glenaid "(it) adheres, cleaves," Welsh glynu "to stick, adhere"; cf. clay). This derivation would imply for the Germanic adjective an original meaning "smeared on well, carefully applied," hence "well crafted, of superior quality" > "free of impurities, fine, delicate" > "small" (see F. Heidermanns, Etymologisches Wörterbuch der germanischen Primäradjektiven, Berlin, 1993). The earlier proposal of a connection with Indo-European *gel- "bright, shining," is improbable, as none of the descendants of Germanic *klainja- have this meaning.

Adverb

Middle English clene, going back to Old English clǣne, derivative of clǣne clean entry 1

Verb

Middle English clenen "to clear of weeds," derivative of clene clean entry 1

Noun

noun derivative of clean entry 3

First Known Use

Adjective

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Adverb

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Noun

circa 1889, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of clean was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near clean

Cite this Entry

“Clean.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/clean. Accessed 8 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

clean

1 of 3 adjective
1
: free from dirt or pollution
clean clothes
2
: free of objectionable behavior or language
led a clean life
a clean joke
3
: being such to the fullest degree : complete
made a clean sweep
4
: being precise or distinct : trim
a ship with clean lines
a clean writing style
5
: smooth entry 1 sense 1a
a sharp knife makes a clean cut
cleanness noun

clean

2 of 3 adverb
1
a
: so as to clean
a new broom sweeps clean
b
: in a clean manner
fight clean
2
: all the way
trout leaping clean out of the water

clean

3 of 3 verb
1
: to make or become clean
clean your room
cleaned up for supper
2
: to take or use up the contents or resources of
tourists cleaned out the shops

Medical Definition

clean

1 of 2 adjective
1
a
: free from dirt or pollution
b
: free from disease or infectious agents
a pullorum-clean flock
keep installations clean of TB infection
2
: free from smudges or anything that tends to obscure
a clean set of fingerprints
3
of a horse's leg : free from curbs or bunches below the hock
4
: free from drug addiction

clean

2 of 2 transitive verb
1
: to brush (the teeth) with a cleanser (as a dentifrice)
2
: to perform dental prophylaxis on (the teeth)

Legal Definition

clean

adjective
: free of amendments or annotations

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