25 Idioms with Clean
The adjective clean has many senses: “free from dirt, contamination or disease, or pollution,” “fair” or “pure,” “clear” or “legible,” “smooth,” “empty,” “complete” or “thorough,” “skillful,” “free of a claim or impediment,” and “free from corruption or from lasciviousness or obscenity”; it also refers to freedom from drug addiction or lack of possession of contraband such as drugs or weapons.
A variety of idioms that include the word have evolved:
1. clean (one’s) plate: eat all the food served
2. clean (someone’s) clock: beat or defeat soundly
3. clean as a whistle: pure or free of involvement in illegal activities
4. a clean bill of health: notification that a person or other entity is in good health or operating condition (from a report from a health official that all crew and passengers on a ship arriving in a port are free of illness)
5. clean break: abrupt and complete disassociation
6. clean code: well-written computer-programming code
7. clean conscience: absence of guilt or remorse (also “clear conscience”)
8. clean cut: tidy and well groomed
9. clean getaway: uninterrupted escape
10. clean house: rid an organization of corruption or inefficiency
11. clean (someone or something) out of: remove people or things
12. clean sheet: variant of “clean slate” (mostly used in British English); alternatively, said of an athlete or team that allows no goals (British English)
13. clean slate: a fresh chance or start (from the now-outmoded use of chalk on slate to record one’s debt at a tavern)
14. clean sweep: the winning of all competitions or prizes
15. clean the floor up (with someone): beat someone up
16. clean up: make something clean or proper, earn or win a lot of money, reform, or defeat
17. clean up (one’s) act: improve or reform
18. clean out: leave bare or empty, or take or deplete
19. come clean: be honest
20–21. have clean hands/keep (one’s) hands clean: be without guilt
22. keep (one’s) nose clean: stay out of trouble
23. make a clean breast of it: admit the truth
24. squeaky clean: completely clean or incorruptible
25. wipe the slate clean: give someone a fresh chance or start (see “clean slate”)
Also, the proverb “A new broom sweeps clean” means that someone new to a situation (such as a job) will make a concerted effort to impress others.
Want to improve your English in 5 minutes a day? Click here to subscribe and start receiving our writing tips and exercises via email every day.
Recommended Articles for You
Subscribe to Receive our Articles and Exercises via Email
- You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!
- Subscribers get access to our archives with 800+ interactive exercises!
- You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!