- 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.
- a similar substance that is oil-soluble and capable of holding insoluble foreign matter in suspension, used in lubricating oils, dry-cleaning preparations, etc.
- any cleansing agent, including soap.Compare anionic detergent, cationic detergent, synthetic detergent.
- cleansing; purging.
Origin of detergent
- a cleansing agent, esp a surface-active chemical such as an alkyl sulphonate, widely used in industry, laundering, shampoos, etc
- having cleansing power
Word Origin for detergent
Word Origin and History for non-detergent
"detergent substance," 1670s, from 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.
- A cleansing substance that acts similarly to soap but is made from chemical compounds rather than fats and lye.
- Having cleansing power.
- 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.