[ kleen ]
See synonyms for: cleancleanedcleanercleanest on

adjective,clean·er, clean·est.
  1. free from dirt; unsoiled; unstained: She bathed and put on a clean dress.

  2. free from foreign or extraneous matter: They filled the new sandbox with clean sand.

  1. free from pollution; unadulterated; pure: clean air;clean water.

  2. habitually free of dirt: Cats are considered clean animals.

  3. characterized by a fresh, wholesome quality: the clean smell of pine.

  4. free from all writing or marking: a clean sheet of paper.

  5. having few or no corrections; easily readable: The publisher demanded clean proofs from the printer.

  6. free from roughness or irregularity: He made a clean cut with a razor.

  7. not ornate; gracefully spare; forceful and simple; trim; streamlined: a clean literary style;the clean lines of a ship.

  8. complete; unqualified: She made a clean break from her old habits.

  9. morally upright; honorable: to lead a clean life.

  10. showing good sportsmanship; fair: a clean fighter.

  11. inoffensive in language or content; without obscenity: Is this a clean movie?

  12. (of a document, record, etc.) bearing no marks of discreditable or unlawful conduct; listing no offenses: a clean driver's license.

  13. Informal.

    • innocent of any crime.

    • not having a criminal record.

    • carrying or containing no evidence of unlawful activity or intent, such as controlled substances, unlicensed weapons, or contraband: The agents searched the car for drugs, but it was clean.

  14. Informal. not using addictive drugs: He’s been clean for three years now.

  15. (of a nuclear weapon) producing little or no radioactive fallout.

  16. not radioactive.

  17. (of a document or financial instrument) free from qualifications or restrictions: a clean bill of lading.

  18. free from defects or flaws: a clean diamond.

  19. free from encumbrances or obstructions.

  20. (of food) free of synthetic additives, unfamiliar ingredients, excessive amounts of sugar, salt, fat, etc.; not overly processed or refined: We sell only clean ice cream and confections in our cafe.

  21. neatly or evenly made or proportioned; shapely; trim: a clean profile.

  22. done without any difficulty or interference: The bank robbers made a clean getaway.

  23. dexterously performed; adroit: a clean serve in tennis.

  24. (of a jump over an obstacle) made without touching the obstacle.

  25. Slang. having no direct associations, business interests, etc., that could prejudice one's official acts or decisions: The new governor is clean because he's sold his construction business and doesn't owe political favors to anyone.

  26. Slang. without money or funds.

  27. (of wine) having a taste that is unusually refreshing and smooth.

  28. having no physical or moral blemish or carrying no taboo according to religious laws, especially dietary or ceremonial laws: The horse was not a clean animal for the Israelites, and could not be eaten.

  29. Nautical. (of an anchorage, harbor, etc.) free of obstructions or hazards (opposed to foul (def. 15)).

  30. (of the legs of a horse) free from injury or blemish, as capped hocks, splints, or scars.

  31. Foreign Exchange. (of currency floats) not influenced by exchange-rate manipulation (opposed to dirty (def. 14)).

adverb,clean·er, clean·est.
  1. in a way that is not dirty, messy, unwholesome, overly complicated, etc.: With practice I’ve learned to write clean and crisp, without flashy ornamentation.After he got out of prison he decided to change his ways and live clean.

  2. so as to be free of dirt or stains: This shirt will never wash clean.

  1. Informal. wholly; completely; quite: The sharp carving knife sliced clean through the roast.In a year, he had gone clean through his inheritance.

verb (used with object)
  1. to make free of dirt, stains, mess, trash, etc.: Clean those dirty shoes.I helped my dad clean the garage.

  2. to remove or consume the contents of; empty; clear: She sat down to dinner ravenous and within five minutes had cleaned her plate.

  1. to remove the inedible parts from (poultry, fish, vegetables, fruit, etc.): He caught the trout, cleaned it, and grilled it—all in 20 minutes.I’ll clean these strawberries and cut them up.

  2. Metallurgy. to remove the seams from (a casting) by filing or grinding.

  3. Philately. to intentionally delete the cancellation from (a postage or revenue stamp).

verb (used without object)
  1. to perform or undergo a process of cleaning: This kind of fabric cleans easily.Detergents clean better than most soaps.

  2. to get rid of dirt, soil, etc. (often followed by up): to spend the morning cleaning.

Verb Phrases
  1. clean out,

    • to empty in order to straighten or clean: I cleaned out my desk drawers and threw away a lot of junk.

    • to use up; exhaust: He had cleaned out his savings.

    • Informal. to drive out by force.

    • to empty or rid (a place) of occupants, contents, etc.: Eager customers cleaned out the store on the first day of the sale.The thief cleaned out the safe.

    • Slang. to cause to lose all or almost all one's money or possessions: Gambling eventually cleaned her out.I got cleaned out last night at poker—the cards were marked.

  2. clean up,

    • to wash or tidy up: They came in from the barn and cleaned up for dinner.Clean up this mess in the hallway.

    • to be washed or tidied up so as to leave no dirt, stains, mess, etc.: This new jacket of mine cleans up really nicely.The great thing about water-based paints is that they clean up so easily.

    • Informal. to become more stylishly or formally dressed when needed, as for a social outing or business engagement: Wow, a suit and tie—you clean up pretty good!

    • to rid of undesirable persons or features: They cleaned up the local bars.

    • to put an end to; finish: to clean up yesterday's chores.

    • Informal. to make a large profit: They cleaned up in the stock market.

Idioms about clean

  1. clean full, Nautical.

    • (of a sail or sails) filled with wind; rap full.

    • (of a sailing vessel) with all sails full of wind; rap full.

  2. clean house, to wipe out corruption, inefficiency, etc., as in an organization: It's time for the city government to clean house.

  1. clean up one's act. act (def. 29).

  2. come clean, Informal. to tell the truth, especially to admit one's guilt: When they offered him a plea bargain, he finally came clean.

  3. eat clean, to reduce one’s consumption of processed and refined foods in favor of whole foods: Raising our children to eat clean has been easier than we expected.

Origin of clean

First recorded before 900; Middle English clene, Old English clǣne “pure, clear,” cognate with Old High German kleini (German klein “small”)

synonym study For clean

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. 37. 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.

Other words for clean

Opposites for clean

Other words from clean

  • clean·ness, noun
  • half-cleaned, adjective
  • o·ver·clean, adjective
  • o·ver·clean·ly, adverb
  • o·ver·clean·ness, noun
  • pre·clean, verb (used with object)
  • re·clean, verb (used with object)
  • su·per·clean, adjective
  • un·cleaned, adjective

Words that may be confused with clean Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use clean in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for clean


/ (kliːn) /

  1. without dirt or other impurities; unsoiled

  2. without anything in it or on it: a clean page

  1. recently washed; fresh

  2. without extraneous or foreign materials

  3. without defect, difficulties, or problems: a clean test flight

    • (of a nuclear weapon) producing little or no radioactive fallout or contamination

    • uncontaminated: Compare dirty (def. 11)

  4. (of a wound, etc) having no pus or other sign of infection

  5. pure; morally sound

  6. without objectionable language or obscenity: a clean joke

  7. (of printer's proofs, etc) relatively free from errors; easily readable: clean copy

  8. thorough or complete: a clean break

  9. dexterous or adroit: a clean throw

  10. sport played fairly and without fouls

  11. simple in design: a ship's clean lines

  12. aeronautics causing little turbulence; streamlined

  13. (of an aircraft) having no projections, such as rockets, flaps, etc, into the airstream

  14. honourable or respectable

  15. habitually neat

  16. (esp of a driving licence) showing or having no record of offences

  17. slang

    • innocent; not guilty

    • not carrying illegal drugs, weapons, etc

  18. nautical (of a vessel)

    • having its bottom clean

    • having a satisfactory bill of health

  19. Old Testament

    • (of persons) free from ceremonial defilement

    • (of animals, birds, and fish) lawful to eat

  20. New Testament morally and spiritually pure

  21. clean sweep See sweep (def. 33)

  1. to make or become free of dirt, filth, etc: the stove cleans easily

  2. (tr) to remove in making clean: to clean marks off the wall

  1. (tr) to prepare (fish, poultry, etc) for cooking: to clean a chicken

  1. in a clean way; cleanly

  2. not standard (intensifier): clean forgotten; clean dead

  1. clean bowled cricket bowled by a ball that breaks the wicket without hitting the batsman or his bat

  2. come clean informal to make a revelation or confession

  1. the act or an instance of cleaning: he gave his shoes a clean

Origin of clean

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

Derived forms of clean

  • cleanable, adjective
  • cleanness, 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

Other Idioms and Phrases with clean


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.