verb (used with object), slat·ed, slat·ing.


    clean slate, an unsullied record; a record marked by creditable conduct: to start over with a clean slate.

Origin of slate

1300–50; Middle English sclate < Middle French esclate, feminine of esclat piece split off; see slat1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for clean slate




  1. a compact fine-grained metamorphic rock formed by the effects of heat and pressure on shale. It can be split into thin layers along natural cleavage planes and is used as a roofing and paving material
  2. (as modifier)a slate tile
a roofing tile of slate
(formerly) a writing tablet of slate
a dark grey colour, often with a purplish or bluish tinge
mainly US and Canadian a list of candidates in an election
  1. the reference information written on a clapperboard
  2. informalthe clapperboard itself
clean slate a record without dishonour
have a slate loose British and Irish informal to be eccentric or crazy
on the slate British informal on credit
wipe the slate clean informal to make a fresh start, esp by forgetting past differences

verb (tr)

to cover (a roof) with slates
mainly US to enter (a person's name) on a list, esp on a political slate
  1. to choose or destinehe was slated to go far
  2. to plan or schedulethe trial is slated to begin in three weeks


of the colour slate

Word Origin for slate

C14: from Old French esclate, from esclat a fragment; see slat 1



verb (tr) informal, mainly British

to criticize harshly; censure
to punish or defeat severely

Word Origin for slate

C19: probably from slate 1
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 clean slate



mid-14c., from Old French esclate, fem. of esclat "split piece, splinter" (Modern French éclat; see slat), so called because the rock splits easily into thin plates. As an adjective, 1510s. As a color, first recorded 1813. Sense of "a writing tablet" (made of slate), first recorded late 14c., led to that of "list of preliminary candidates prepared by party managers," first recorded 1842, from notion of being easily altered or erased. Clean slate (1856) is an image from customer accounts chalked up in a tavern.



1520s, "to cover with slates" (earlier sclatten, late 15c.), from slate (n.). Meaning "propose, schedule" is from 1883; earlier "to nominate" (1804); the notion is of writing on a slate board. Related: Slated; slating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Science definitions for clean slate



A fine-grained metamorphic rock that forms when shale undergoes metamorphosis. Slate splits into thin layers with smooth surfaces. It ranges in color from gray to black or from red to green, depending on the minerals contained in the shale from which it formed.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Culture definitions for clean slate

clean slate

A new start; especially to make a new start by clearing the record. This phrase comes from the use of chalk and slates in classrooms in the past. By wiping the slate clean, a student could remove any evidence of a mistake.

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.

Idioms and Phrases with clean slate

clean slate

A fresh start; another chance after wiping out old offenses or debts. This idiom often appears as wipe the slate clean. For example, Henry's boss assured him that the matter was finished and he could start with a clean slate, or He wished he could wipe the slate clean, but it was too late to salvage the relationship. This expression alludes to the slate boards on which school work or tavern bills were recorded in easily wiped-off chalk. Since 1850 or so the term has been used figuratively, and it has long outlived the practice of writing on slate.


In addition to the idiom beginning with slate

  • slated for, be

also see:

  • clean slate
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.