Start with a clean slate and wipe the slate clean

Start with a clean slate and wipe the slate clean are two versions of an idiom. We will examine the meaning of the idioms start with a clean slate and wipe the slate clean, where they came from, and some examples of their idiomatic usage in sentences.

To start with a clean slate and to wipe the slate clean both may mean: 1.) to start over without any preconceived notions; 2.) to forgive and forget someone’s wrong-doings or failures; 3.) to expunge a debt; or 4.) to discard an old system in favor of creating a new one. The expressions start with a clean slate and wipe the slate clean came into use in the 1800s. At that time, students still used slates and chalk to perform written exercises in school. Bars and stores used slates and chalk to keep track of debt clients owed the establishments. By the middle of the 1800s, the phrases start with a clean slate and wipe the slate clean were used in an idiomatic sense.

Examples

Whether it’s an actual desk, a folding TV table or a portion of a dining table, start with a clean slate — with materials you need for that day’s learning set out, and nothing else. (The Daily Gazette)

If you find certain bloatware is hooked so deeply into your system that you can’t remove it—or if you just want to start with a clean slate—Windows’ Fresh Start option can help. (Popular Science Magazine)

This is an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start afresh. (The Ulster Herald)

Creative director Stuart Vevers felt it important to wipe the slate clean and think differently about presenting fashion under such strange new circumstances. (Vogue Magazine)

Want to know more idioms? Check out some others we covered:

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