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 flesh Leviticus 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
If a bottle of water in a freezer is clean enough, the water will remain liquid; to initiate the freezing process, ice crystals need a speck of dust or other impurity to attach to. Robin Pecknold, Rolling Stone, 14 Nov. 2022 The miserable 2022 is part of what makes the Fever a relatively clean slate for Sides. Wilson Moore, The Indianapolis Star, 12 Nov. 2022 Keeper of the Cheerios Time to get those toy cars clean! Corinne Sullivan, Good Housekeeping, 11 Nov. 2022 Difficulty in staying clean can lead to illness and disease. cleveland, 11 Nov. 2022 When removed from the mold, clean-up and buffing is required to get the carcass ready for the cover layer. Tim Newcomb, Popular Mechanics, 10 Nov. 2022 Everything looks a little less stock, and less clean. Christian De Looper, BGR, 10 Nov. 2022 Overall, most pillows should be able to be wiped clean or spot cleaned with soap and water. Barbara Bellesi Zito, Better Homes & Gardens, 7 Nov. 2022 The packaging for Acqua di Giò is just as clean as the scent. Grooming Playbook, The Salt Lake Tribune, 7 Nov. 2022
Adverb
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 And while enthusiasm marked the conversation on clean-burning hydrogen, some sounded caution about how the technology is scaled up. Denise Chow, NBC News, 12 May 2022 At the same time, the gas company notes that hydrogen could dramatically reduce hazardous air pollution from heavy-duty trucks, estimating that Angeles Link could deliver enough clean-burning fuel to displace 3 million gallons of diesel each day. Sammy Rothstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 21 Mar. 2022 New research and a slew of industry announcements promise clean-burning hydrogen at $1 per kilogram will displace fossil fuels used in industries from steel to shipping. Michael J. Coren, Quartz, 29 Dec. 2021 Without the mess of ash and soot, these clean-burning units require much less upkeep than traditional wood-burning fireplaces, but a bit of gas fireplace maintenance is essential to keep yours in top shape. Jessica Bennett, Better Homes & Gardens, 11 Oct. 2021 The steel was produced using HYBRIT (Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology), which uses electricity from renewable sources to create the clean-burning gas. David Kindy, Smithsonian Magazine, 1 Sep. 2021
Verb
With two or three customizable large compartments and numerous mesh pockets for easy access to small essentials, it's manufactured with 600D Oxford fabric that's waterproof, abrasion-resistant, and easy to clean. Jon Langston, Car and Driver, 9 Nov. 2022 Plus, the smaller sizes are super easy to clean in your home washing machine — but the brand recommends using a 60-lbs. Jessie Quinn, Peoplemag, 8 Nov. 2022 The hammock-style chairs are made of eucalyptus wood and are easy to clean with a damp cloth. Maya Polton, Better Homes & Gardens, 8 Nov. 2022 The smooth finish also made this pan easy to clean. Sarah Wharton, Good Housekeeping, 7 Nov. 2022 The porcelain enamel-glaze finish is chip-resistant, scratch-resistant, and easy to clean. Danny Perez, Popular Mechanics, 2 Nov. 2022 For countertops, Kadwell recommends solid surface materials, such as quartz, that are easy to clean. Michelle Brunner, Washington Post, 28 Oct. 2022 Our stainless steel with copper cookware is long-lasting, simple to care for, and easy to clean. Taylor Fischetto, Country Living, 11 Oct. 2022 Both are made with a technical and soft merino-wool blend that is durable and easy to clean. Outside Online, 10 Oct. 2022
Noun
Keeping your phone clean isn’t hard with the right supplies and a little bit of elbow grease. Kim Komando, USA TODAY, 11 Aug. 2022 Keeping your dash clean can prevent the spread of illnesses to keep you and your passengers safe and healthy. Hearst Autos Research, Car and Driver, 24 June 2022 All the accessories are dishwasher-safe for easy clean-up. Laura Denby, Peoplemag, 4 Nov. 2022 This blanket did well during our spot treatment test, and the top of the blanket almost seemed to repel the liquid instead of absorbing it, which makes for easy clean-up. Erica Reagle, Better Homes & Gardens, 26 Oct. 2022 This one's enameled for easy clean-up and has handles for easy transferring in and out of the oven. Becca Miller, Good Housekeeping, 20 Oct. 2022 All 26 cases had wound infectious with exposure to Hurricane Ian flood waters that occurred from the storm-surge entering their homes or during post-storm clean-up. Carma Hassan, CNN, 18 Oct. 2022 Jonathan Adee, executive director of Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, said he's worked with Long on a number of neighborhood clean-ups and has been impressed with her understanding of residents' needs. Sharon Coolidge, The Enquirer, 1 Sep. 2022 According to the Lake Merritt Institute, an organization that leads volunteer clean-ups, green algae usually grows in large quantities during the spring and early summer. Kyla Guilfoil, ABC News, 31 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 1 Dec. 2022.

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

More from Merriam-Webster on clean

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