Definition of clean in English:

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Pronunciation: /klēn/


1Free from dirt, marks, or stains: the room was spotlessly clean keep the wound clean
More example sentences
  • The source print seems to have been quite clean and free of dirt and damage, resulting in likely the best transfer you'll ever see.
  • The film is surprisingly clean and free of dirt or scratches, and colors are vibrant and rich.
  • There was dirt under the usually clean fingernails.
washed, scrubbed, cleansed, cleaned;
spotless, unsoiled, unstained, unsullied, unblemished, immaculate, pristine, dirt-free;
hygienic, sanitary, disinfected, sterilized, sterile, aseptic, decontaminated;
informal squeaky clean, as clean as a whistle
1.1Having been washed since last worn or used: a clean blouse
More example sentences
  • When I replace the clean cutlery after washing up, there's always some already there to give me clues about where stuff lives.
  • They sat on the edge of the low shelf which served as a bench, scrubbed and washed and dressed in clean tunics.
  • But once you emerged from the darkness of the cellar with a tub of clean wash and started hanging on the line, this was for all the world to see.
1.2 [attributive] (Of paper) not yet marked by writing or drawing: he copied the directions onto a clean sheet of paper
More example sentences
  • A wastebasket sat next to a stack of clean paper on the floor.
  • It absorbs the color from the inks it blends, but is quickly cleaned with a couple of swipes on clean paper.
  • He packs plants in cardboard boxes lined with clean paper and occasionally uses icepacks.
blank, empty, clear, plain;
unused, new, pristine, fresh, unmarked
1.3(Of a person) attentive to personal hygiene: by nature he was clean and neat
More example sentences
  • By these means, the virtuous mother could mold an unspoiled, respectful, neat, and clean child.
  • Our girls are clean and healthy.
  • Henry was fastidiously clean by the standards of the time.
1.4Free from pollutants or unpleasant substances: we will create a cleaner, safer environment
More example sentences
  • Despite being labelled as a fast growing city, the average man on the street expects that the city would be clean and free from pollution.
  • Sandanski has the lowest annual rainfall in Bulgaria and its air is remarkably clean and pollution-free.
  • The water is one degree Celsius, but at least the normally polluted lake is clean enough to swim in today.
pure, clear, fresh, crisp, refreshing;
unpolluted, uncontaminated
1.5Free from or producing relatively little radioactive contamination.
2Morally uncontaminated; pure; innocent: clean living
More example sentences
  • ‘I strongly reject the implicit suggestion that their party is morally clean,’ he said.
  • It is by self discipline and clean moral life that man can unveil the divine qualities in his personality.
  • We need to be morally upright, like chaste virgins before God, pure and clean.
virtuous, good, upright, upstanding;
honorable, respectable, reputable, decent, righteous, moral, exemplary;
innocent, pure, chaste
informal squeaky clean
innocent, guiltless, blameless, guilt-free, crime-free, above suspicion
informal squeaky clean
2.1Not sexually offensive or obscene: it’s all good clean fun even when clean, his verses are very funny
More example sentences
  • The show promises to transport the audience to an era when humour meant good clean fun.
  • It was all good clean fun and a day many of the little people will cherish long after their Santa days.
  • It's about time we resurrect the good clean fun in computer games because I am really tired of the blood and gore of 21 st-century games.
2.2Showing or having no record of offenses or crimes: a clean driving license is essential for the job
More example sentences
  • With a clean credit record once again, I hope you will be able to arrange a loan.
  • I really need a clean credit record because I will be moving house again shortly.
  • He had never had an accident before and had previously had a completely clean driving record.
2.3Played or done according to the rules: it was a good clean fight
More example sentences
  • Market economics and the rule of law demand clean government.
  • We live in a clinically clean society with rules and regulations.
  • However, he still believes that corruption can be curbed by setting up a clean system and strict rules.
fair, honest, sporting, sportsmanlike, honorable, according to the rules
informal on the level
2.4 [predicative] informal Not possessing or containing anything illegal, especially drugs or stolen goods: I searched him and his luggage, and he was clean
More example sentences
  • The tall guy was clean, and they told him to board along with the rest of the passengers and we had a safe enjoyable flight.
2.5 [predicative] informal (Of a person) not taking or having taken drugs or alcohol.
Example sentences
  • I'm going to meetings every day and learning that when I'm clean, I'm a winner.
  • I've made amends to my family; I bring them a lot of joy because I'm clean and I brought them sadness during my using.
  • I had taken someone for quite a lot of money and these are things I've got to deal with today because I'm clean.
sober, teetotal, dry, nondrinking;
drug-free, off drugs
informal on the wagon
2.6Free from ceremonial defilement, according to Mosaic Law and similar religious codes.
Example sentences
  • We need not worry about such things as ceremonial washings and clean and unclean foods.
3Free from irregularities; having a smooth edge or surface: a clean fracture of the leg
More example sentences
  • On the left is the smooth, clean surface of the new dam that has turned part of the Colorado River into a lake.
  • The patented coring tine cuts clean cores at the surface and shatters the soil below.
  • Also, wires, especially for gas metal-arc welding, must have clean, smooth surfaces.
3.1Having a simple, well-defined, and pleasing shape: the clean lines and pared-down planes of modernism
More example sentences
  • This urban contemporary collection keeps things in perspective with simple forms, clean lines and subtle shapes.
  • Linen looks best in simple shapes, with clean geometric lines.
  • The clean lines and the simple shapes are compelling in their quiet beauty and grace.
simple, elegant, graceful, streamlined, smooth
3.2(Of an action) smoothly and skillfully done: I still hadn’t made a clean takeoff
More example sentences
  • In the musicals, the performances were very clean, and flowed smoothly and the acting was natural and often sparked laughter.
  • A clean catch and drive provided the platform for a march to the line and the winning try.
  • It was a clean take-off, and he was airborne five minutes after starting his take-off run.
neat, smooth, crisp, straight, precise
3.3(Of a taste, sound, or smell) giving a clear and distinctive impression to the senses; sharp and fresh: clean, fresh, natural flavors
More example sentences
  • The stew was spiked with still-crisp bits of green pepper and onion, and had a clean taste of fresh vegetables.
  • The tamilok, its fans swear, has a fresh clean taste that sends shivers of pleasure down one's alimentary canal.
  • This simple natural Thai soup offers fresh clean flavours that fuse the taste that is Thai cuisine.
3.4(Of timber) free from knots.


1So as to be free from dirt, marks, or unwanted matter: the room had been washed clean
More example sentences
  • Soapy wash bags are also great for scrubbing the kids clean, and softening the skin at the same time.
  • Before entering the Wellington's special care baby unit they had to scrub their hands clean and cover themselves in protective overalls.
  • Once, he pressured someone into scrubbing his boots clean and moaned when he noticed one speck of mud on the bottom.
2 informal Used to emphasize the completeness of a reported action, condition, or experience: he was knocked clean off his feet I clean forgot her birthday
More example sentences
  • Suddenly, the wind picked up, knocking Jerry clean off his feet.
  • So that was that - except that in the rush to sort out the mystery, she clean forgot to ask what emergency the fire engine was going to.
  • It knocked the victims clean into the air.
completely, entirely, totally, fully, quite, utterly, absolutely


[with object]
1Make (something or someone) free of dirt, marks, or mess, especially by washing, wiping, or brushing: clean your teeth properly after meals chair covers should be easy to clean we cleaned Uncle Jim up and made him presentable [no object]: he always expected other people to clean up after him (as noun cleaning) Anne will help with the cleaning
More example sentences
  • I will stamp my foot until the city rises into the sky and the dirt and filth is cleaned away.
  • When we emerged, I grabbed some leaves off a nearby plant to clean the dirt off my hands.
  • It can be easier to clean their teeth if you cradle your baby's head in your arms in front of you.
wash, cleanse, wipe, sponge, scrub, mop, rinse, scour, swab, hose down, sluice (down), disinfect;
literary lave
launder, dry-clean
1.1Remove the innards of (fish or poultry) prior to cooking.
Example sentences
  • She sat down on the log and she just waited for him to carry on with cleaning the fish.
  • Taking out a small knife, she began to clean the fish.
  • Even George, when he had taught her how to clean a fish, hadn't felt the same.
gut, draw, dress
formal eviscerate



(as) clean as a whistle


clean bill of health


clean someone's clock

informal Give someone a beating: he went wild and cleaned everybody’s clock down there in the dugout
More example sentences
  • I want names buster or I am going to come down there and personally clean your clock.
  • Then, when they meet a skilled person who is really trying to clean their clock, they may be disappointed in what they can actually pull out of their training.
  • Speaking of Thanksgiving, some fool in a car almost cleaned my clock on my way in to work this morning!
3.1Defeat or surpass someone decisively.
Example sentences
  • He cleaned his clock in the French debate.
  • As he became a dot on the horizon I reassured myself if I were his age, with his bike, with his quads, his parents and his Spandex I'd clean his clock.
  • Sure we have taken some casualties, but the people we are fighting are criminals, terrorists, and punks and we are cleaning their clock.

clean house

Do housework.
Example sentences
  • Yard work, cleaning house and washing cars are good exercise.
  • Well, as nature cleans house, as it washes/blows away ‘excess’, or shakes at its core, or erupts the underground gases and lava, mankind must pick up the pieces and move on!
  • A man will do almost anything not to cook, wash dishes, or clean house.
4.1Eliminate corruption or inefficiency: unless our organization cleans house, it will be difficult to raise funds
More example sentences
  • He was determined to become the real head of the Intelligence Community and to clean house at CIA by eliminating deadwood and cutting costs.
  • Dozens of advisors to the late leader have been fired in a shakeup to clean house of corrupt administrators.
  • Unless he cleans house, his will be the Edsel presidency.

clean one's plate

Eat up all the food put on one’s plate.
Example sentences
  • I leave a lot on the plate because I need not clean my plate.
  • I pack half the food away right then so that I can clean my plate without stuffing myself-and I have a meal for the next day.
  • I took a tentative bite and then cleaned my plate.

a clean sweep

1The removal of all unwanted people or things in order to start afresh: the new leaders wanted to make a clean sweep of the discredited old order
More example sentences
  • I have frequently condemned it and wished to make a clean sweep of it.
  • For a man with a broom wanting to make a clean sweep of city hall, one couldn't ask for a better place to start.
  • Back in the heady dotcom days, it seemed as though online polling was poised to make a clean sweep of market research - revolutionizing the way companies conducted quantitative and qualitative research.
2The winning of all of a group of similar or related competitions, events, or matches: he was in reach of the nomination after a clean sweep of Tuesday’s primaries
More example sentences
  • Zambia squash aces dominated the recently-ended East Africa squash safari circuit, by making a clean sweep of all three titles on the Kenya tour.
  • It was Cooke's first appearance at the Sportcity venue since making a clean sweep of the national youth titles over seven years ago.
  • Thus he made a clean sweep of all the events he participated in.

clean up one's act

informal Begin to behave in a better way, especially by giving up alcohol, drugs, or illegal activities: the casino industry is bent on cleaning up its act
More example sentences
  • Now is the time to sift through those cluttered cupboards and clean up your act.
  • Now comes the time to get real and clean up my act.

come clean

informal Be completely honest; keep nothing hidden: the company has refused to come clean about its pollution record
More example sentences
  • If the department wants transformation targets met, then they must be honest and come clean about this.
  • The question is, will it be done responsibly, by coming clean about the hidden liabilities now and taking the necessary, if painful, steps to deal with them?
  • They have no interest, my friends, in coming clean and being honest with the American people.

have clean hands

Be uninvolved and blameless with regard to an immoral act: no one involved in the conflict has clean hands
More example sentences
  • We are the only party that can come along and say we have clean hands.
  • But there are questions about the loyalty and integrity of this intelligence service that, after all, does not have clean hands.
  • Perhaps she had forgotten that if you are going to preach, it is as well to have clean hands.

keep one's hands clean

Not involve oneself in an immoral act.
Example sentences
  • When the chips were down the game's governing body refused to get involved and preferred to keep their hands clean.
  • The philosophy seemed to be that you don't catch grubs by keeping your hands clean.
  • You can keep your hands clean, or you can keep many more people alive.

keep one's nose clean

see nose.

make a clean breast of something (or make a clean breast of it)

Confess fully one’s mistakes or wrongdoings.
Example sentences
  • Why don't they make a clean breast of it and say, ‘Look, ladies and gentlemen, we're really not dealing in news.’
  • I reckon you need to wipe the slate, mate, make a clean breast of it, so to speak.
  • If he has had an extramarital affair, he ought to make a clean breast of it.

make a clean job of something

informal Do something thoroughly.
Example sentences
  • However, the witches were not particularly preoccupied with making a clean job of things.
  • If you don't know how to make a clean job of it ask a more experienced climber to help you.
  • If you don't facilitate for fence construction during the wall install all bets are off on making a clean job of it after the fact!

wipe the slate clean

see wipe.

Phrasal verbs


clean someone out

informal Use up or take all someone’s money: they were cleaned out by the Englishman at the baccarat table
More example sentences
  • Spend the same amount of time and money at the slots or the tables, and you could be cleaned out.
  • I think they were cleaned out of balls, gloves and any little trinket that the kids could prise out of them.
  • It wasn't your fault that your wife left, cleaning you out.
bankrupt, ruin, make insolvent, make penniless, wipe out

clean up

2.1Make things or an area clean or neat: he was in the kitchen, cleaning up
More example sentences
  • After her work was finished, she cleaned up the kitchen area and returned to her room.
  • Or is he taking on a very big job down there, as the president's viceroy for cleaning up that area?
  • Crews are doing what they can to try and clean up this area, but floodwaters remain a huge problem.
informal2.2 Make a substantial gain or profit.
Example sentences
  • Disinfectant companies have been cleaning up since the foot-and-mouth outbreak.
  • He travels the circuit, pretending to be an ordinary joe, and then cleans up on bets and prizes because he has a great rock-and-roll voice.
  • A competent Democrat could clean up with a message to restore government for the people rather than for special interests.
2.3Win all the prizes available in a sporting competition or series of events: the Germans cleaned up at Wimbledon
More example sentences
  • City Arms added to their division one championship win by cleaning up all the competition trophies on offer.
  • In addition to their 3rd place trophies, this team cleaned up on the technical prizes winning three Near Pins and a Long Drive.
  • He cleaned up in the rifle competition by winning five of the six rifle matches in the champion shot competition.

clean something up

Restore order or morality to: the police chief was given the job of cleaning up a notorious district
More example sentences
  • The owner of garages plagued by arson attacks and used as a drinking den has been ordered to clean them up or pull them down.
  • By 1913 the tango had become a worldwide phenomenon, but had undergone further adaptation in order to clean it up.
  • But by the 1990s, its image had been cleaned up as the Victorian buildings were restored and the old warehouse of the Merchant City transformed.



Pronunciation: /ˈklēnəb(ə)l/
Example sentences
  • Thankfully everything is cleanable and fixable.
  • The wall must be furnished with easily cleanable tile in order to meet government health and safety standards.
  • For example, milking parlor design doesn't have to be certified as cleanable.


Example sentences
  • If it wasn't for us and our pesky obsession with getting places on time, sitting on cleanish seats with access to working toilets, the transport system would run perfectly well.
  • It was pretty funny to see these folk arrive in what is basically a really messy shell, and watch their reactions to having to find a cleanish place to sleep.
  • Note that when anyone else takes out the bar steward's car, it comes back dry, cleanish and not at all broken.


Pronunciation: /ˈklēnnəs/
Example sentences
  • It will once again be promoted as a town of natural beauty, cleanness, and calmness.
  • The impulse to cleanness, freshness, frankness, simplicity, precision, informs both the inward- and the outward-directed music of this time.
  • In this massive text dealing with cases of cleanness and purity in food and in domestic relationships, the two key sections deal with religious festivals and detailed procedures of Temple practices.


Old English clǣne; related to Dutch and German klein 'small'.

  • To make a clean breast of it is to confess all of your mistakes or wrongdoings. People used to think that the breast, or chest, was where a person's conscience was located.

    In the proverb cleanliness is next to godliness, ‘next’ means ‘immediately following’. The saying is quoted by John Wesley in one of his sermons, on the subject of dress: ‘Slovenliness is no part of religion…Cleanliness is indeed next to godliness’ (1791).

Words that rhyme with clean

Aberdeen, Amin, aquamarine, baleen, bean, been, beguine, Benin, between, canteen, careen, Claudine, contravene, convene, cuisine, dean, Dene, e'en, eighteen, fascine, fedayeen, fifteen, figurine, foreseen, fourteen, Francine, gean, gene, glean, gombeen, green, Greene, Halloween, intervene, Janine, Jean, Jeannine, Jolene, Kean, keen, Keene, Ladin, langoustine, latrine, lean, limousine, machine, Maclean, magazine, Malines, margarine, marine, Mascarene, Massine, Maxine, mean, Medellín, mesne, mien, Moline, moreen, mujahedin, Nadine, nankeen, Nazarene, Nene, nineteen, nougatine, obscene, palanquin, peen, poteen, preen, quean, Rabin, Racine, ramin, ravine, routine, Sabine, saltine, sardine, sarin, sateen, scene, screen, seen, serene, seventeen, shagreen, shebeen, sheen, sixteen, spleen, spring-clean, squireen, Steen, submarine, supervene, tambourine, tangerine, teen, terrine, thirteen, transmarine, treen, tureen, Tyrrhene, ultramarine, umpteen, velveteen, wean, ween, Wheen, yean

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: clean

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