clean full, Nautical.
    1. (of a sail or sails) filled with wind; rap full.
    2. (of a sailing vessel) with all sails full of wind; rap full.
    clean house, to wipe out corruption, inefficiency, etc., as in an organization: It's time for the city government to clean house.
    clean up one's act. act(def 29).
    come clean, Slang. to tell the truth, especially to admit one's guilt.

Origin of clean

before 900; Middle English clene, Old English clǣne pure, clear, cognate with Old High German kleini (German klein small)
Related formsclean·ness, nounhalf-cleaned, adjectiveo·ver·clean, adjectiveo·ver·clean·ly, adverbo·ver·clean·ness, nounpre·clean, verb (used with object)re·clean, verb (used with object)su·per·clean, adjectiveun·cleaned, adjective
Can be confusedclean cleanse (see synonym study at the current entry)cleanliness cleanness

Synonyms for clean

Synonym study

1. Clean, clear, pure refer to freedom from soiling, flaw, stain, or mixture. Clean refers especially to freedom from soiling: a clean shirt. Clear refers particularly to freedom from flaw or blemish: a clear pane of glass. Pure refers especially to freedom from mixture or stain: a pure metal; not diluted but pure and full strength. 35. Clean, cleanse refer to removing dirt or impurities. To clean is the general word with no implication of method or means: to clean windows, a kitchen, streets. Cleanse is especially used of thorough cleaning by chemical or other technical process; figuratively it applies to moral or spiritual purification: to cleanse parts of machinery; to cleanse one's soul of guilt.

Antonyms for clean

1. dirty. 17. contaminated, radioactive. 35. soil. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for clean up

clean up

verb (adverb)

to rid (something) of dirt, filth, or other impurities
to make (someone or something) orderly or presentable
(tr) to rid (a place) of undesirable people or conditionsthe campaign against vice had cleaned up the city
(intr) informal to make a great profit

noun cleanup

  1. the process of cleaning up or eliminating something
  2. (as modifier)a cleanup campaign
informal, mainly US a great profit



without dirt or other impurities; unsoiled
without anything in it or on ita clean page
recently washed; fresh
without extraneous or foreign materials
without defect, difficulties, or problemsa clean test flight
  1. (of a nuclear weapon) producing little or no radioactive fallout or contamination
  2. uncontaminatedCompare dirty (def. 11)
(of a wound, etc) having no pus or other sign of infection
pure; morally sound
without objectionable language or obscenitya clean joke
(of printer's proofs, etc) relatively free from errors; easily readableclean copy
thorough or completea clean break
dexterous or adroita clean throw
sport played fairly and without fouls
simple in designa ship's clean lines
aeronautics causing little turbulence; streamlined
(of an aircraft) having no projections, such as rockets, flaps, etc, into the airstream
honourable or respectable
habitually neat
(esp of a driving licence) showing or having no record of offences
  1. innocent; not guilty
  2. not carrying illegal drugs, weapons, etc
nautical (of a vessel)
  1. having its bottom clean
  2. having a satisfactory bill of health
Old Testament
  1. (of persons) free from ceremonial defilement
  2. (of animals, birds, and fish) lawful to eat
New Testament morally and spiritually pure
clean sweep See sweep (def. 33)


to make or become free of dirt, filth, etcthe stove cleans easily
(tr) to remove in making cleanto clean marks off the wall
(tr) to prepare (fish, poultry, etc) for cookingto clean a chicken


in a clean way; cleanly
not standard (intensifier)clean forgotten; clean dead
clean bowled cricket bowled by a ball that breaks the wicket without hitting the batsman or his bat
come clean informal to make a revelation or confession


the act or an instance of cleaninghe gave his shoes a clean
Derived Formscleanable, adjectivecleanness, noun

Word Origin for clean

Old English clǣne; related to Old Frisian klēne small, neat, Old High German kleini
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 up



Old English clæne "free from dirt or filth; pure, chaste, innocent; open, in the open," of beasts, "ritually safe to eat," from West Germanic *klainoz "clear, pure" (cf. Old Saxon kleni "dainty, delicate," Old Frisian klene "small," Old High German kleini "delicate, fine, small," German klein "small;" English preserves the original Germanic sense), from PIE root *gel- "bright, gleaming" (cf. Greek glene "eyeball," Old Irish gel "bright").

"Largely replaced by clear, pure in the higher senses" [Weekley], but as a verb (mid-15c.) it has largely usurped what once belonged to cleanse. Meaning "whole, entire" is from c.1300 (clean sweep in the figurative sense is from 1821). Sense of "innocent" is from c.1300; that of "not lewd" is from 1867; that of "not carrying anything forbidden" is from 1938; that of "free of drug addiction" is from 1950s. To come clean "confess" is from 1919, American English.



mid-15c., "make clean," from clean (adj.). Related: Cleaned; cleaning. From clean out "clean by emptying" comes sense of "to leave bare" (1844); cleaned-out "left penniless by losses" is from 1812.



Old English clæne "dirtlessly," also "clearly, fully, entirely;" see clean (adj.). Cf. similar use of German rein "clean."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with clean up

clean up


Also, clean out. Make clean or orderly, as in She cleaned up the cellar after the flood, or Dad said he cleaned out the garage. [First half of 1800s]


Also, wash up. Wash or tidy oneself, as in Do I have time to clean up before dinner?


Settle or dispose of, as in He cleaned up all the bills that had arrived during his vacation.


Bring to a certain standard of order or morality, as in This script won't do; we'll have to clean up the language. Applied to personal behavior, it also is put as clean up one's act, as in He'll have to clean up his act and obey the rules. [c. 1900]


Succeed, especially financially, as in We had fantastic luck at the races and really cleaned up. [Slang; first half of 1800s]


Also, clean up on. Defeat or vanquish, kill, as in We're cleaning up all the other teams, or With enough ammunition we could clean up on this pocket of snipers. [Slang; mid-1800s]


In addition to the idioms beginning with clean

  • clean as a whistle
  • clean bill of health
  • clean breast
  • clean hands, have
  • clean house
  • cleanliness is next to godliness
  • clean out
  • clean slate
  • clean someone's clock
  • clean sweep
  • clean up

also see:

  • come clean
  • have a clear (clean) conscience
  • keep one's nose clean
  • make a clean breast of
  • make a clean sweep
  • new broom sweeps clean
  • take to the cleaners
  • wipe the slate clean
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.