Entries linking to unwashed
prefix of negation, Old English un-, from Proto-Germanic *un- (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old High German, German un-, Gothic un-, Dutch on-), from PIE *n- (source of Sanskrit a-, an- "not," Greek a-, an-, Old Irish an-, Latin in-), combining form of PIE root *ne- "not." Often euphemistic (such as untruth for "lie").
The most prolific of English prefixes, freely and widely used in Old English, where it forms more than 1,000 compounds. It underwent a mass extinction in early Middle English, but emerged with renewed vigor 16c. to form compounds with native and imported words. It disputes with Latin-derived cognate in- (1) the right to form the negation of certain words (indigestable/undigestable, etc.), and though both might be deployed in cooperation to indicate shades of meaning (unfamous/infamous), typically they are not.
It also makes words from phrases (such as uncalled-for, c. 1600; undreamed-of, 1630s; uncome-at-able, 1690s; unputdownable, 1947, of a book; un-in-one-breath-utterable, Ben Jonson; etc., but the habit is not restricted to un-; such as put-up-able-with, 1812). As a prefix in telegramese to replace not and save the cost of a word, it is attested by 1936.
Old English wascan "to wash, cleanse, bathe," transitive sense in late Old English, from Proto-Germanic *watskan "to wash" (source also of Old Norse vaska, Middle Dutch wasscen, Dutch wassen, German waschen), from PIE root *wed- (1) "water; wet." Related: Washed; washing.
Used mainly of clothes in Old English (the principal verb for washing the body, dishes, etc. being þwean). Old French gaschier "to stain, soil; soak, wash" (Modern French gâcher) is from Frankish *waskan, from the same Germanic source. Italian guazzare also is a Germanic loan-word. To wash (one's) hands of something is 1550s, from Pilate in Matthew xxvii.24. To wash up "clean utensils after a meal" is from 1751. Washed up "no longer effective" is 1923, theater slang, from notion of washing up at the end of a job.
updated on March 02, 2014