or brain-wash·ing, brain wash·ing

[ breyn-wosh-ing, -waw-shing ]
/ ˈbreɪnˌwɒʃ ɪŋ, -ˌwɔ ʃɪŋ /


a method for systematically changing attitudes or altering beliefs, originated in totalitarian countries, especially through the use of torture, drugs, or psychological-stress techniques.
any method of controlled systematic indoctrination, especially one based on repetition or confusion: brainwashing by TV commercials.
an instance of subjecting or being subjected to such techniques: efforts to halt the brainwashing of captive audiences.

Nearby words

  1. brainstorm,
  2. brainstorming,
  3. brainteaser,
  4. braintree,
  5. brainwash,
  6. brainwave,
  7. brainwork,
  8. brainworm,
  9. brainy,
  10. braird

Origin of brainwashing

First recorded in 1945–50; brain + washing


or brain-wash, brain wash

[ breyn-wosh, -wawsh ]
/ ˈbreɪnˌwɒʃ, -ˌwɔʃ /

verb (used with object)

to cause (someone) to undergo brainwashing.


the process of brainwashing.
a subjection to brainwashing.

Origin of brainwash

First recorded in 1950–55; back formation from brainwashing

Related formsbrain·wash·er, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for brainwashing

British Dictionary definitions for brainwashing


/ (ˈbreɪnˌwɒʃ) /


(tr) to effect a radical change in the ideas and beliefs of (a person), esp by methods based on isolation, sleeplessness, hunger, extreme discomfort, pain, and the alternation of kindness and cruelty
Derived Formsbrainwasher, nounbrainwashing, noun

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for brainwashing
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for brainwashing


[ brānwŏsh′ĭng ]


Inducing a person to modify his or her beliefs, attitudes, or behavior by conditioning through various forms of pressure or torture.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Culture definitions for brainwashing


Indoctrination that forces people to abandon their beliefs in favor of another set of beliefs. Usually associated with military and political interrogation and religious conversion, brainwashing attempts, through prolonged stress, to break down an individual's physical and mental defenses. Brainwashing techniques range from vocal persuasion and threats to punishment, physical deprivation, mind-altering drugs, and severe physical torture.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.