AskDefine | Define whitewash

The Collaborative Dictionary

Whitewash \White"wash`\, n. [1913 Webster]
Any wash or liquid composition for whitening something, as a wash for making the skin fair. --Addison. [1913 Webster]
A composition of line and water, or of whiting size, and water, or the like, used for whitening walls, ceilings, etc.; milk of lime. [1913 Webster]
a glossing over or cover up (of crimes or misfeasance). [PJC]
Whitewash \White"wash`\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Whitewashed; p. pr. & vb. n. Whitewashing.] [1913 Webster]
To apply a white liquid composition to; to whiten with whitewash. [1913 Webster]
To make white; to give a fair external appearance to; to clear from imputations or disgrace; hence, to clear (a bankrupt) from obligation to pay debts. [1913 Webster]
In various games, to defeat (an opponent) so that he fails to score, or to reach a certain point in the game; to skunk. [Colloq., U. S.] [Webster 1913 Suppl.]
to gloss over or cover up (crimes or misfeasance). [PJC]

Word Net



1 a defeat in which the losing person or team fails to score
2 wash consisting of lime and size in water; used for whitening walls and other surfaces
3 a specious or deceptive clearing that attempts to gloss over failings and defects


1 cover up a misdemeanor, fault, or error; "Let's not whitewash the crimes of Stalin"; "She tried to gloss over her mistakes" [syn: gloss over, sleek over, hush up]
2 cover with whitewash; "whitewash walls"
3 exonerate by means of a perfunctory investigation or through biased presentation of data

Moby Thesaurus

absolve, acquit, allow for, allowance, amnesty, apply paint, becloud, bedaub, bedizen, befog, begild, belie, besmear, blank, blanket, blind, brush on paint, bulldoze, calcimine, camouflage, chalk, clear, cloak, clobber, clobbering, cloud, coat, color, complexion, conceal, cover, cover up, cream, crushing defeat, curtain, dab, daub, decisive defeat, decontaminate, decontamination, deep-dye, defeat utterly, destigmatize, diminish, dip, discharge, disguise, dismiss, dispense from, dissemble, distemper, distort, distract attention from, double-dye, dress up, dye, ease, eclipse, embellish, emblazon, embroider, enamel, engild, ensconce, enshroud, envelop, exculpate, excuse, exempt, exempt from, exonerate, extenuate, extenuating circumstances, extenuation, extenuative, face, falsify, fast-dye, forgive, free, fresco, fudge, garble, gild, gilding, give absolution, glaze, gloss, gloss over, grain, grant amnesty to, grant immunity, grant remission, hide, hue, ignore, illuminate, imbue, ingrain, japan, justify, keep under cover, lacquer, lay on color, lessen, let go, let off, make allowance for, mask, mince, miscite, miscolor, misquote, misreport, misrepresent, misstate, mitigate, mitigation, no contest, nonpros, obfuscate, obscure, occult, overbear, overstate, overwhelm, overwhelming defeat, paint, palliate, palliation, palliative, pardon, parget, paste, pasting, pervert, pigment, pipe clay, pipe-clay, prime, purge, qualification, quash the charge, release, remit, schmear, screen, set free, shade, shadow, shellac, shellacking, shrive, shroud, shut out, skunk, slant, slop on paint, slur over, smashing defeat, smear, smearing, snow under, soft-pedal, soften, softening, stain, steamroller, stipple, strain, sugarcoat, tinct, tincture, tinge, tint, titivate, tone, total defeat, trick out, twist, undercoat, understate, utter defeat, varnish, veil, veneer, vindicate, warp, wash, whelm, white, whiten, whitening, whitewashing, whiting, whomp, whop, whopping, withdraw the charge



From white + wash


  1. a lime and water mixture for painting walls and fences bright white.
    • 1952: For walls plaster gave a smooth white surface; or if it was not sufficiently white, or had become discoloured, it could be brightened up with a coat of whitewash or paint. — L.F. Salzman, Building in England, p. 157.
  2. A victory without reply



  1. To paint over with a lime and water mixture so as to brighten up a wall or fence.
    The houses looked very bright when they whitewashed the whole neighborhood.
  2. To cover over errors or bad actions.
    In his sermon, the minister didn't try to whitewash over the sins of his church.
  3. To not allow a team to score any runs.


  • Spanish: blanquear
cover errors
  • Spanish: encubrir
translations to be verified
  • Dutch: witten

Related terms

See also

Whitewash, or calcimine, kalsomine, or calsomine is a very low cost type of paint made from slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) and chalk (whiting). Various other additives have also been used.


Whitewash cures through a reaction with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to form calcium carbonate in the form of calcite, a reaction known as carbonatation.
When the paint initially dries it is uncured, and has almost no strength. It takes a period of anything up to a few days, depending on climate, to harden.
It is usually applied to exteriors. Occasionally it is colored and used on interiors, such as the hallways of apartment buildings, but it is not popular for this as it can rub off onto clothing to a small degree.
Whitewash is especially effective on adobe-like materials because it is absorbed easily and the resultant chemical reaction hardens the substrate. Also whitewash and adobe are both very low cost building materials.
The coating has antimicrobial properties that provide hygienic and sanitary benefits for animal barns.
In the middle of the 20th century, when family farms with dairy barns were common in the Upper Midwest of the USA, whitewash was a necessary part of routine barn maintenance.


Lime wash is pure slaked lime in water. It produces a unique surface glow due the to refraction of calcite crystals. Limewash and whitewash both cure to become the same material.
When limewash is initially applied it has very low opacity, which can lead novices to overthicken the paint. Drying increases opacity, and subseqent curing increases opacity again.


Additives that have been used include water glass, glue, egg white, Portland cement, salt, soap, milk, flour, earth, blood.
Whitewash is sometimes coloured with earths to achieve colours spanning the range of broken white, cream, yellow and a range of browns.
Historically pig's blood was added to give the colour Suffolk pink, a colour still widely used on house exteriors in some areas of the UK. Animal blood also further reinforces the earth based substrate to some degree.
Pozzolanic materials are occasionally added to give a much harder wearing paint finish. However paint with these added has a short open time, so pozzolan can only be added at point of use.
Linseed oil is sometimes added (typically 0.5-2%) to improve adhesion on difficult surfaces.
Cement addition makes a harder wearing paint in white or grey. Open time is short, so this is added at point of use.
Dilute glues improve paint toughness.
Wheat flour has been used as a strength enhancing binder. Salt is usually added to prevent the flour going mouldy later in damp conditions. The use of salt brings its own issues.


Simple lime paints are very low cost. A 25kg bag of lime makes around 100kg of paint, and costs around £6 in the UK (2008).


whitewash in German: Kalkfarbe
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