• synonyms


[dih-tur-juh nt]
See more synonyms for detergent on Thesaurus.com
  1. any of a group of synthetic, organic, liquid or water-soluble cleaning agents that, unlike soap, are not prepared from fats and oils, are not inactivated by hard water, and have wetting-agent and emulsifying-agent properties.
  2. a similar substance that is oil-soluble and capable of holding insoluble foreign matter in suspension, used in lubricating oils, dry-cleaning preparations, etc.
  3. any cleansing agent, including soap.Compare anionic detergent, cationic detergent, synthetic detergent.
Show More
  1. cleansing; purging.
Show More

Origin of detergent

1610–20; (< F) < Latin dētergent- (stem of dētergēns) wiping off (present participle of dētergēre). See deterge, -ent
Related formsnon·de·ter·gent, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for detergent

cleaner, solvent

Examples from the Web for detergent

Historical Examples of detergent

  • Oxymel of verdigris is stimulant, detergent, and escharotic.

    Cooley's Practical Receipts, Volume II

    Arnold Cooley

  • Formerly used to make an astringent and detergent lotion:—1 oz.

  • Hot water is itself a detergent; that is, it has the power of dissolving dirt.

  • In the case of weak-bodied soap, this addition gives firmness and tends to increase the detergent qualities.

  • Gingerly she sat him down on a stool, and with detergent and water she began removing the mud.

    Foundling on Venus

    John de Courcy

British Dictionary definitions for detergent


  1. a cleansing agent, esp a surface-active chemical such as an alkyl sulphonate, widely used in industry, laundering, shampoos, etc
Show More
adjective Also: detersive (dɪˈtɜːsɪv)
  1. having cleansing power
Show More

Word Origin for detergent

C17: from Latin dētergēns wiping off; see deterge
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 detergent


1610s, from Latin detergentem (nominative detergens), present participle of detergere "to wipe away, cleanse," from de- "off, away" (see de-) + tergere "to rub, polish, wipe." Originally a medical term, application to "chemical cleansing product" is from 1938.

Show More

"detergent substance," 1670s, from detergent (adj.).

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

detergent in Medicine


  1. A cleansing substance that acts similarly to soap but is made from chemical compounds rather than fats and lye.
Show More
  1. Having cleansing power.
Show More
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

detergent in Science


  1. A cleaning agent that increases the ability of water to penetrate fabric and break down greases and dirt. Detergents act like soap but, unlike soaps, they are derived from organic acids rather than fatty acids. Their molecules surround particles of grease and dirt, allowing them to be carried away. Compare soap.
Show More
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.