wash out: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘wash out’ mean?

The idiom "wash out" means to fail or not be successful in an activity or endeavor. It can also refer to something that has been completely ruined or destroyed.

Idiom Explorer

Unmasking the Enigma

Wash out is an idiomatic phrase in American English that can be used in several ways. One of its main uses is to describe the failure or lack of success in a particular endeavor or activity. When someone is unable to achieve their goals or meet the expectations placed upon them, it can be said that they "washed out." This phrase is often applied to situations where there is repeated failure, such as a student who fails a class multiple times. The disappointment and frustration of not being able to succeed can be captured by the phrase "washed out."

Another way to use the idiom is to describe the removal or elimination of something, often through the use of water or cleaning. For example, if someone spills coffee on their shirt, they can say, "I was able to wash it out." In this context, the idiom conveys the idea of cleaning and making something clean again. The act of washing out a stain or dirt from clothing or other surfaces is a common use of the phrase.

Our defeated plans were washed out by rain.

Additionally, "wash out" has a specific meaning in the military context. It refers to the process of eliminating recruits or soldiers who have not met the required standards or qualifications. When a recruit fails to successfully complete the training or meet the physical or mental requirements of the military, they are "washed out." This term is often used when a trainee is unable to complete a particular training course or program, and it signifies their removal from the military.

Moving away from the literal uses of the idiom, "wash out" can also be used in a metaphorical sense to describe the feeling of being exhausted, worn out, or drained. It can convey a sense of physical and mental fatigue after a demanding or strenuous activity. For example, someone might say, "Working double shifts for a week really washed me out." This use of the phrase captures the feeling of being completely drained and in need of rest or rejuvenation.

"wash out" is a versatile idiom in American English that can be used to describe different situations. It can convey the idea of failure or lack of success, the removal or elimination of something, the discharge of military recruits, or the feeling of fatigue or exhaustion. The idiom reflects the complexities of human experiences and the diverse ways in which language is used to capture those experiences. As language continues to evolve, there will always be room for new interpretations and nuances, making communication an ever-fascinating aspect of human interaction.

Example usage

Examples of the idiom *wash out* used in sentences:

  1. After failing the final exam, John's dreams of becoming a doctor washed out.
  2. The heavy rain washed out the football match, so they had to reschedule it.
  3. I tried to remove the stain from my shirt, but unfortunately, it didn't wash out.

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