wash (wŏsh, wôsh)
v. washed, wash·ing, wash·es
a. To cleanse, using water or other liquid, usually with soap, detergent, or bleach, by immersing, dipping, rubbing, or scrubbing: wash one's hands; wash windows.
b. To soak, rinse out, and remove (dirt or stain) with water or other liquid: wash grease out of overalls.
2. To make moist or wet; drench: Tears washed the child's cheeks.
3. To flow over, against, or past: waves that washed the sandy shores.
4. To carry, erode, remove, or destroy by the action of moving water: Heavy rains washed the topsoil away.
5. To rid of corruption or guilt; cleanse or purify: wash sins away.
6. To cover or coat with a watery layer of paint or other coloring substance.
a. To purify (a gas) by passing through or over a liquid, as to remove soluble matter.
b. To pass a solvent, such as distilled water, through (a precipitate).
8. To separate constituents of (an ore) by immersion in or agitation with water.
9. To cause to undergo a swirling action: washed the tea around in the cup.
1. To cleanse something in or by means of water or other liquid.
a. To undergo washing without fading or other damage: This fabric will wash.
b. Informal To hold up under examination; be convincing: His story will not wash with the police.
3. To flow, sweep, or beat with a characteristic lapping sound: Waves washed over the pilings.
4. To be carried away, removed, or drawn by the action of water.
1. The act or process of washing or cleansing.
2. A quantity of articles washed or intended for washing: The wash is on the back porch.
3. Waste liquid; swill.
4. Fermented liquid from which liquor is distilled.
5. A preparation or product used in washing or coating.
6. A cosmetic or medicinal liquid, such as a mouthwash.
a. A thin layer of watercolor or India ink spread on a drawing.
b. A light tint or hue: "a wash of red sunset" (Thomas Pynchon).
a. A rush or surge of water or waves.
b. The sound of this rush or surge.
a. Removal or erosion of soil by the action of moving water.
b. A deposit of recently eroded debris.
a. Low or marshy ground washed by tidal waters.
b. A stretch of shallow water.
11. Western US The dry bed of a stream.
12. Turbulence in air or water caused by the motion or action of an oar, propeller, jet, or airfoil.
13. Informal An activity, action, or enterprise that yields neither marked gain nor marked loss: "[The company] doesn't do badly. That is, it's a wash" (Harper's).
1. Used for washing.
2. Being such that washing is possible; washable.
1. To clean by washing with water from top to bottom: wash down the walls.
2. To follow the ingestion of (food, for example) with the ingestion of a liquid: washed the cake down with coffee.
a. To remove or be removed by washing.
b. To cause to fade by laundering: color that had been washed out by bleach.
2. To carry or wear away or be carried or worn away by the action of moving water: The river rose and washed out the dam. The road has washed out five miles down the mountain.
3. To deplete or become depleted of vitality: By evening, I was washed out from overwork.
4. To eliminate or be eliminated as unsatisfactory: a football player who was washed out; an officer candidate who washed out after one month.
5. To cause (an event) to be rained out.
1. To wash one's hands.
2. Chiefly British To wash dishes after a meal.
3. To burn out; exhaust: all washed up as a politician.
come out in the wash Slang
1. To be revealed eventually: The real reasons for her resignation will come out in the wash.
2. To turn out well in the end: Don't worry; this project will come out in the wash.
wash (one's) hands of
1. To refuse to accept responsibility for: He washed his hands of the matter.
2. To abandon; renounce: They have washed their hands of him.
[Middle English washen, from Old English wacsan, wæscan; see wed-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.