a block of soft sandstone used in scrubbing the decks of a ship.

verb (used with object), ho·ly·stoned, ho·ly·ston·ing.

to scrub with a holystone.

Origin of holystone

1815–25; holy + stone; perhaps orig. jocular or profane
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for holystone

Contemporary Examples of holystone

  • If my boot should leave a stain on the marble, George must not holystone it away.

    The Daily Beast logo
    A Mark Twain Christmas Story

    The Daily Beast

    December 24, 2009

Historical Examples of holystone

  • We'll holystone 'em an' slush 'em with hot tar if they give any trouble!

  • My head was like to burst, and my tongue was like a lump of holystone in my mouth.

  • I need scarcely explain that holystone is a large soft stone, used with water, for scrubbing the dirt off the ship's decks.

    A Boy's Voyage Round the World

    The Son of Samuel Smiles

  • On deck, the men began to holystone the planks, polish up the brasswork, and make everything shipshape for port.

    A Boy's Voyage Round the World

    The Son of Samuel Smiles

  • The Malay swung aside; the holystone crunched into the sack of eggs and slid to earth.


    George Allan England

British Dictionary definitions for holystone



a soft sandstone used for scrubbing the decks of a vessel


(tr) to scrub (a vessel's decks) with a holystone

Word Origin for holystone

C19: perhaps so named from its being used in a kneeling position
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 holystone

soft sandstone used to scrub decks of sailing ships, 1777, despite the spelling, so called perhaps because it is full of holes. As a verb, by 1828.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper