clean up(redirected from clean up one's act)
1. To clean; to make a person or space cleaner or neater in appearance; to tidy up. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "clean" and "up." You really need to clean up your room. It's like a pigsty in there! Get me a sponge so I can clean this sticky table up. I'll clean up the baby while you take the stroller out to the car.
2. To obtain a lot of earnings, winnings, or desired goods (most often money) from a particular venture or action. I'm buying you dinner because I really cleaned up at the poker game last night! If our little invention gets mass-produced, we'll clean up! I cleaned up at the thrift store—look at all this neat stuff I got for five bucks!
3. To stop the practice of illegal or seedy behavior or activities in a particular place. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "clean" and "up." This part of town used to be dominated by the drug trade until the police were able to clean it up.
4. To easily attain victory (typically over an opponent). Half the players on that team were sidelined with injuries, so we cleaned up.
5. To refine something (such as a piece of writing) by removing errors, inconsistences, offensive elements, etc. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "clean" and "up." I paid an editor to clean up my manuscript, and after that I got multiple offers! No radio station will play this song as-is—you need to clean it up a bit and remove the foul language.
6. To address, rectify, or complete something. You go ahead up to the room—I'll clean up the paperwork at the front desk.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
clean someone or something up
to get someone or something clean. Please go into the bathroom and clean yourself up. I'll clean up the kids before we leave for dinner. Can you clean this place up a little?
clean up (on something)
Fig. to make a lot of money on something. The promoters cleaned up on the product. If we get this invention to market soon, we can clean up.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
1. Also, clean out. Make clean or orderly, as in She cleaned up the cellar after the flood, or Dad said he cleaned out the garage. [First half of 1800s]
2. Also, wash up. Wash or tidy oneself, as in Do I have time to clean up before dinner?
3. Settle or dispose of, as in He cleaned up all the bills that had arrived during his vacation.
4. Bring to a certain standard of order or morality, as in This script won't do; we'll have to clean up the language. Applied to personal behavior, it also is put as clean up one's act, as in He'll have to clean up his act and obey the rules. [c. 1900]
5. Succeed, especially financially, as in We had fantastic luck at the races and really cleaned up. [Slang; first half of 1800s]
6. Also, clean up on. Defeat or vanquish, kill, as in We're cleaning up all the other teams, or With enough ammunition we could clean up on this pocket of snipers. [Slang; mid-1800s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
1. To make someone or something clean, neat, or presentable: My brother stayed late and helped me clean up the apartment after the party. After I got home from work, I cleaned myself up for dinner.
2. To get rid of dirt, rubbish, or impurities: Volunteers helped clean up the oil spill. I cleaned the broken glass up before anyone could step on it.
3. To rid something or some place of crime or immoral behavior: The government promised to clean up the corrupt judicial system. The mayor cleaned the neighborhood up and made it safe for residents.
4. Slang To make a large amount of money, often in a short period of time: Investors cleaned up when the company struck oil.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.