General English


  • adjective containing no errors
  • adjective containing no programs
  • verb to make something clean

Media Studies

  • adjective referring to text that contains relatively few mistakes or corrections


  • adjective free from dirt, waste products or unwanted substances
  • adjective sterile or free from infection
  • adjective not using recreational drugs


  • used to describe a wine with a fresh taste that has no obvious defects or problems with its aroma, appearance or flavour. It does not necessarily mean a good-quality wine.

Origin & History of “clean”

Etymologically, clean and German klein ‘small’ are the same word. Both go back to west Germanic *klainoz, which meant ‘clear, pure’, but whereas the English adjective has stayed fairly close to the original meaning, the German one has passed via ‘clean’, ‘neat’, ‘dainty’, and ‘delicate’ to ‘small’. It has been speculated that *klainiz was based on *klai-, which connoted ‘stickiness’ (it was the source of English clay and clammy). The reasoning is that something sticky, perhaps from a coating of oil, would have been perceived as having a clear or shiny surface, and there may also have been a suggestion of the purity conferred by a ceremonial anointing with oil. The derivatives cleanse and cleanly (whence cleanliness) are both Old English formations.