Clean (adjective)

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by ThomasK, Sep 15, 2013.

  1. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    How do you translate 'clean', the general adjective? Does it have a figurative meaning (often a 'moralizing' - e.g., religious - connotation)?

    Dutch: proper (yes, also 'moral'), net (// ENG neat --- not so often), schoon (lit. 'beautiful' --- often 'moral'). But there is also the old word 'rein', which reminds of Jewish 'kosher'/ 'koosjer', Arabic/ Islamic 'halal'.

    I don't know the Italian word, but I do remember mani pulite, clean hands, the name of an action against corruption, which might translated as 'schone handen', 'propere handen', in Dutch - which are only metaphorical in context.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2013
  2. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    Hi TK,

    In Greek:

    Clean: «Καθαρός, -ρή, ρό» [kaθa'ros] (masc.), [kaθa'ri] (fem.), [kaθa'ro] (neut.) < Classical Gr. adj. «καθαρός, -ὰ, -όν» kătʰārós (masc.), kătʰārà (fem.), kătʰārón (neut.) --> physically clean, spotless, pure, unmixed (with unknown etymology).
    «Καθαρό μέτωπο» [kaθa'ro 'metopo] (both neut. sing.) --> clean forehead (in moral sense, a person free from guilt, undefiled)
    «Καθαρά λόγια» [kaθa'ra 'loʝa] (both neut. pl.) --> clear words (words that are said in plain and ordinary language, not in cipher or mumble)
    «Τη βγάζω καθαρή» [ti 'vɣazo kaθa'ri] --> to make it clean (to get away with it, get off scot-free)
  3. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)

    čist/čistý = clean, also uncorrupted, free from taint, ...;

    neposkvrněný = a calque from Latin immaculate (skvrna = macula), unsullied;

    akce "čisté ruce" = "Clean hands" action, an evergreen election theme;

    očistec = purgatory;
  4. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Which reminds me of (Aristotelian ?) katharsis in theatre plays of course... Probably also the Kathars in the South of France in the Middle Ages... Thanks!

    In the meantime I was reminded of the religious connotation of the Dutch 'rein', strictly speaking 'clean', but now mainly according to religious laws, just like 'kosher', 'halal', which seem to mean 'lawful' basically, not simply clean.

    While doing some research on the internet, I noticed that the 'Mr Proper' [French] cleaning product in mostly translated, which results in :
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2013
  5. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    The list above is not complete,and especially: I always wonder whether words can be used metaphorically.

    I tried to find some basic words in other languages, but can they be used metaphorically - or do you need others for that:

    - чистый, which will be like Czech, I suppose, but I cannot transliterate well (/cist.../ ?)
    - temiz in Turkish ?
    - طاهر من وجهة النظر in Arabic (something like /kliner/?)?
  6. origumi Senior Member

    Every language must have the concept of clean, usually with several synonyms, usually with metaphorical meanings, usually participating in expressions and idioms.

    In Hebrew it can be נקי, טהור, צח, זך, צלול, צרוף, בר, תם and apparently some more for specific contexts.
  7. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Quite right. But could you give us the main word, the most general word, and transliterate it? (I thought it would have been kosher, but I was mistakenly thinking that moral rules would be referring to cleanliness, but that is an overgeneralisation, so I noticed.)
  8. Maroseika Moderator

    Russian чистый can be used in quite different meanings - from its literal substantial sense to quite metaphorical:

    чистое золото - pure gold (without admixtures)
    чистый воздух - clear air
    чистый спирт - neat alcohol

    чистая страница - blank page
    чистое поле - open country
    чистая прибыль - net profit
    чистое время - actual time (e.g. racing time exluding stops)

    чистые помыслы - heavenly thoughts
    чистая совесть - clear conscience

    чистый вымысел - pure (mere) fiction
    чистое совпадение - mere coincidence
    чистая правда - simple truth
    чистое безумие - sheer madness
    чистое попадание - sure hit
    чистый эксперимент - pristine experiment
    Чистый Четверг - the Great Thursday
  9. learnerr Senior Member

    A note to readers: this is not in the political sense. It is an "open field", with no forests or buildings; the meaning is not that it is a place where tanks or troops can freely manoeuvre (in this sense the expression is never used), but that it is a place where you see clearly in a long distance and are likely not to meet any people. The expression is a little bit ancient.
  10. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    What an impressive list, Maroseika. But how do you pronounce/transliterate the root?

    I suppose this use of 'clean' refers mainly to some kind of purity, doesn't it? I did the test and added Dutch translations to your list:

    You will see that we use three or four words here, but zuiver, puur, louter have a very similar meaning...
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2013
  11. learnerr Senior Member

    I don't think so. It means that the good thoughts (in the sense "intentions") are not affected by false (that is, evil and/or convoluted) aspirations. Thoughts can be beautiful and yet not free/"pure" from, let's say, devils' suggestions.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2013
  12. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Of course, you're right: zuivere gedachten! [I'll change it in the list]--- But I am still not sure how one pronounces the root...

    I am still intrigued by this resemblance between 'pure' and 'clean'. Of course the link is clear (and in German sauber is clean), but in my mind I don't spontaneously associate cleanliness with purity; those seem different concepts, though of course somehow linked. BTW: 'pure' in German is not sauber, but pur, rein)
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2013
  13. ahmedcowon Senior Member

    In Arabic, there are two words that are usedinterchangeably:

    نظيف /naTHeef/ ("TH" is emphatic "th" in "think")
    طاهر /Taaher/ ("T" is emphatic "t")

    The word طاهر is mostly used to mean "sinless" while the word نظيف is mostly used to mean "free from dirt or pollution"
  14. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I see. Do they have the same root? (I'd think not, but...) Could then 'sinless' be a metaphorical interpretation/ variant of 'free from dirt or pollution'? Do you have a different word for 'pure'?
  15. origumi Senior Member

    The main word is naqi נקי of root n-q-y. It means clean in the simple sense, and has a variety of other meanings such as honest, has no money ("clean of money"), one who stopped using drugs ("clean of drugs"), to rob ("clean someone of his property"), pure, and so on.

    Kosher (or in modern pronunciation kasher) is indeed an alternative, mainly for food or as the antonym of illegal, illicit.
  16. ahmedcowon Senior Member

  17. ancalimon Senior Member


    temiz : clean
    arı: clean, sinless, pure, purified (this word is no longer colloquial and can be considered archaic by some)
    ak: clean, white
    saf: pure, honest - naive
  18. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    @Origumi: those meanings seem quite broad then. Does that mean you don't have any other words meaning 'clean' (and 'neat', 'mere').Thanks.

    @Ahmed: so both Arabic words can be in both ways... I see. Do you use it in as many different senses as Hebrew, as Russian? (Especially the number of variants in Russian seemed quite amazing to me...)
  19. learnerr Senior Member

    I am sure it is only because Maroseika was so attentive to intricacies of speech and so willing to help. No doubt, any other languages are no less variative in this regard!
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2013
  20. ahmedcowon Senior Member

    Some examples of using them metaphorically in Arabic:

    أيادي نظيفة - clean hands
    بداية نظيفة - clean start
    أهداف نظيفة - clean goals (when only one team scores and the final result is X-0)
    شباك نظيفة - clean sheet
    سينما نظيفة - clean cinema (movies without any sexual scenes)
    طاقة نظيفة - clean energy
    قلب طاهر - clean heart

    هواء نقي - pure air
    ذهب خالص - pure gold (without admixtures)
    توحيد خالص - pure monotheism

    راتب صافي - net salary
    ربح صافي - net profit
    ذهن صافي - clear mind
    طقس صافي - clear weather
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2013
  21. Maroseika Moderator

    The root is чист- [chist], cognate of Latin scindō, Greek σχίζω and Ancient Indian chinátti - to split, cleave, Ancient Iceland skítа - faeces and English shit; from PIE *skheid- split, divide, separate.

    Чистый - [chistiy] - masc.
    Чистая - [chistaya] - fem.
    Чистое - [chistoye] - neutr.

    Sure. I'd say - to all kinds of purity.
  22. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Again a huge number of combinations, requiring various 'near-synonyms' in English (even 'clear' this time)... Interesting.
  23. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    In Portuguese, limpo.

    It can be used in a moral sense, but for the religious sense of clean/unclean we rather use "pure/impure".

    Hmm, I don't think we use limpo quite that way. We would rather say "correct".

    Limpo can mean neat, but there are more specific words for "tidy".

    Not those.

    We have the same expression, mãos limpas. As a side note, the Portuguese cognate polido means "polished" or "polite".
  24. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Very interesting link: polido, polite, and the reference to polishing. Indeed, we also say nette manieren (clean manners)!
  25. Maroseika Moderator

    About polishing: in Russian чистовая обработка (clean treatment) - wiping, finishing (e.g. in metal working).

    One more meaning in Russian: Пречистая Дева - the Most-Pure Virgin.
  26. learnerr Senior Member

    I would not say "чистовая" means "clean". In this case, it refers to cleanness as a quality: literally, we get "cleanness process". Not to mention that "чистовой вариант" refers to the final ("polished", "made in cleanness") variant of a written work...
  27. Maroseika Moderator

    I meant literal translation. Maybe "cleannesy" would match better, but I prefered an excisting word. As far as i know, чистовой is usually translated as clean (or fair in the sense of fair copy - чистовая копия).
  28. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    Generally, "clean" translates as 干净 in Chinese.
    When talking about the moralizing connotation, i.e. someone's heart is clean, or the behavior, background is clean, people rather use another word: 清白.
    清白 literally means "clean and white", but today it's only used to describe the moral aspects.
  29. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Interesting association/connotation: `white` is often associated with `good` (blanchir l’argent, geld witwassen [whitewash] in Dutch.I thought of blank and blanco (free of dirt, free of .../ empty).
  30. arielipi Senior Member

    religious clean - זך zach
    clean clear צח tzakh
    clean נקי naki
  31. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Could you give us some more illustrations of where you use the three, Arielipi? Thanks in advance!
  32. arielipi Senior Member

    simple chicken soup can sometimes be called a clear soup מרק צח marak tzakh.
    זך כלבנה zach kalevanah clean as the moon
    השולחן נקי hashulkhan naki the table is clean
    ללא רבב lelo revav with no dirt/stain
    ללא דופי lelo dofi with no stains (on personality)
    theyre pretty much interchangeable though you would use each for its own category as i said above.
  33. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Thanks. Interesting to see that you consider 'clear' and 'clean' semantically linked. The link is not far-fetched, but starting from Dutch, I would not have seen it... It happens more often that the word use in different languages reveals or lays bare certain links that one perceives when thinking about [the roots of] words... (I may be formulating this both awkwardly and incorrectly... Feel free to correct... Should anyone what I am - awkwardly - hinting at, don't hesitate and send me a PM, or point it out here)
  34. arielipi Senior Member

    Translations for clear/clean:
    ט - ה - ר t - h - r (religiously) to purify, to make something pure
    פ - נ - י\ה p/ph - n - h/y to clear the area, garbage
    ר - ק - נ r - q - n to clear garbage, to empty
    נ - ק - ה n - q - h to clear/clean
    ב - ה - ר b/v - h - r became clear
    ז - כ - ה\י z - ch/ck - h/y to purify, to clear

    that is the list.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2013
  35. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Great information, thanks a lot. But now there are 5 or 6 roots, I guess...
  36. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Right now I realize that none of those refers to the simple quality of being clean now. Two of them refer to purity (which is not the same, or so I think), the state of not being mixed with other things, and the other one refers to some kind of refinement: taking away 'dirty' stuff until only[louter] the good stuff remains. But etymologically
    - 'louter' does refer to 'clean'
    - 'zuiver' refers to Lat. sobrius [not drunk, in control of one's thoughts and feelings,...]
    - 'puur' refers to Lat. purus meaning something like being clean, clear, unmixed, chaste (

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