detergent

Definitions

General English

General Science

  • noun a cleaning substance which removes grease and bacteria from the surface of something

Cars & Driving

  • noun an additive used in oil or petrol which either removes deposits or holds the contaminating materials in suspension (which prevents them coating sensitive surfaces such as pistons)

Construction

  • A chemical compound that cleans surfaces and keeps foreign matter in solution or suspension.

Travel

  • noun a cleaning substance which removes grease and bacteria from clothes, dishes, etc.

Origin & History of “detergent”

A detergent is literally something that ‘wipes away’. The word comes from dētergent-, the present participial stem of Latin dētergēre, a compound verb formed from - ‘away’ and tergēre ‘wipe’ (its past participle produced English terse). English detergent originally meant simply ‘cleansing agent’ (used particularly in a medical or surgical context); the specific application to a cleanser made from synthetic chemical compounds (as opposed to soap, which is made from fats and lye) is a 20th-century development.
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