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.
- 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
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.”
- 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.