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detergent

[dih-tur-juh nt]
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noun
  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.
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adjective
  1. cleansing; purging.
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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

Examples from the Web for detergent

Historical Examples

  • 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

detergent

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

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

adj.

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.

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n.

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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

detergent in Medicine

detergent

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

detergent in Science

detergent

[dĭ-tûrjənt]
  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.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.