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[bleech] /blitʃ/
verb (used with object)
to make whiter or lighter in color, as by exposure to sunlight or a chemical agent; remove the color from.
Photography. to convert (the silver image of a negative or print) to a silver halide, either to remove the image or to change its tone.
verb (used without object)
to become whiter or lighter in color.
a bleaching agent.
degree of paleness achieved in bleaching.
an act of bleaching.
Origin of bleach
before 1050; Middle English blechen, Old English blǣcean, derivative of blāc pale; cognate with Old Norse bleikja, Old High German bleichēn
Related forms
bleachable, adjective
bleachability, noun
half-bleached, adjective
nonbleach, noun
overbleach, verb
rebleach, verb
semibleached, adjective
unbleached, adjective
unbleaching, adjective
1. See whiten. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for bleach
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • “Antichlors” are used as aqueous solutions and the dosage controlled in the same manner as for bleach solutions.

    Chlorination of Water Joseph Race
  • The first of these is the bleach, or oxidizing mixture of bromide and ferricyanide.

  • If ever time could bleach his own soul and conciliate hers, what, what was to become of Aphrodite?

    The Young Duke Benjamin Disraeli
  • "Lay them on the grass to bleach," said Daisy, with an air of experience.

    Little Men Louisa May Alcott
  • They are the more ancient dead whose poor remains are exposed with every fall of earth, to bleach in the sun.

    The Ingoldsby Country Charles G. (Charles George) Harper
British Dictionary definitions for bleach


to make or become white or colourless, as by exposure to sunlight, by the action of chemical agents, etc
a bleaching agent
the degree of whiteness resulting from bleaching
the act of bleaching
Derived Forms
bleachable, adjective
bleacher, noun
Word Origin
Old English blǣcan; related to Old Norse bleikja, Old High German bleih pale
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for bleach

Old English blæcan "bleach, whiten," from Proto-Germanic *blaikjan "to make white" (cf. Old Saxon blek, Old Norse bleikr, Dutch bleek, Old High German bleih, German bleich "pale;" Old Norse bleikja, Dutch bleken, German bleichen "to bleach"), from PIE root *bhel- (1) "to shine, flash, burn" (cf. Sanskrit bhrajate "shines;" Greek phlegein "to burn;" Latin flamma "flame," fulmen "lightning," fulgere "to shine, flash," flagrare "to burn;" Old Church Slavonic belu "white;" Lithuanian balnas "pale").

The same root probably produced black; perhaps because both black and white are colorless, or because both are associated with burning. Cf. Old English scimian, related to the source of shine (n.), meaning both "to shine" and "to dim, grow dusky, grow dark." Related: Bleached; bleaching.


"act of bleaching," 1887; "a bleaching agent," 1898, probably directly from bleach (v.). The Old English noun blæce meant "leprosy;" Late Old English also had blæco "paleness," and Middle English had blech "whitening or bleaching agent."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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bleach in Science
A chemical agent used to whiten or remove color from textiles, paper, food, and other substances and materials. Chlorine, sodium hypochlorite, and hydrogen peroxide are bleaches. Bleaches remove color by oxidation or reduction.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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