[breyn-wosh-ing, -waw-shing]
a method for systematically changing attitudes or altering beliefs, originated in totalitarian countries, especially through the use of torture, drugs, or psychological-stress techniques.
any method of controlled systematic indoctrination, especially one based on repetition or confusion: brainwashing by TV commercials.
an instance of subjecting or being subjected to such techniques: efforts to halt the brainwashing of captive audiences.
Also, brain-washing, brain washing.

1945–50; brain + washing Unabridged


[breyn-wosh, -wawsh]
verb (used with object)
to cause (someone) to undergo brainwashing.
the process of brainwashing.
a subjection to brainwashing.
Also, brain-wash, brain wash.

1950–55; back formation from brainwashing

brainwasher, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
brainwash (ˈbreɪnˌwɒʃ)
(tr) to effect a radical change in the ideas and beliefs of (a person), esp by methods based on isolation, sleeplessness, hunger, extreme discomfort, pain, and the alternation of kindness and cruelty

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

1950, a literal translation of Chinese xi nao. A term from the Korean War. The verb brainwash is recorded from 1955, but the pp. adj. brainwashed is attested from 1953.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

brainwashing brain·wash·ing (brān'wŏsh'ĭng)
Inducing a person to modify his or her beliefs, attitudes, or behavior by conditioning through various forms of pressure or torture.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

brainwashing definition

Indoctrination that forces people to abandon their beliefs in favor of another set of beliefs. Usually associated with military and political interrogation and religious conversion, brainwashing attempts, through prolonged stress, to break down an individual's physical and mental defenses. Brainwashing techniques range from vocal persuasion and threats to punishment, physical deprivation, mind-altering drugs, and severe physical torture.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
The public perceives this intellectual suppression, which is a form of
  attempted brainwashing and socialist inculcation.
Nor can its survival be ascribed simply to the effective brainwashing of the
They seem to have operated with insufficient background brainwashing.
Else be accused of brainwashing by limiting perspective.
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