Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.
Related to unwashed: rabble, unwashed masses
Like this video? Subscribe to our free daily email and get a new idiom video every day!

the great unwashed

The general public, especially those of the lower and lower-middle classes. Critics are hailing the film as a modern masterpiece, though it doesn't seem to be causing too great a stir among the great unwashed The world of the super rich is one that we among the great unwashed can't even begin to understand.
See also: great, unwashed

the unwashed masses

The broader general public, especially those of the lower and lower-middle classes. The film didn't cause too great a stir with the unwashed masses, but it has been considered a milestone in cinematic achievement among film critics. The world of the super-rich is one that we among the unwashed masses can't even begin to understand.
See also: masse, unwashed
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

the great unwashed

Fig. the general public; the lower middle class. The Simpsons had a tall iron fence around their mansion—put there to discourage the great unwashed from wandering up to the door by mistake, I suppose. Maw says the great unwashed don't know enough to come in out of the rain.
See also: great, unwashed
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

the great unwashed

People use the great unwashed to mean poor or ordinary people. A man quickly led the Queen's husband away from the great unwashed. Note: This expression is used humorously.
See also: great, unwashed
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

the (great) unwashed

the mass or multitude of ordinary people. derogatory
1997 Spectator Early piers tried to be rather socially exclusive, but the need to maintain revenue soon opened the gates to the great unwashed.
See also: unwashed
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

the great unwashed

n. most of the common people; the hoi polloi. I usually find myself more in agreement with the great unwashed than with the elite.
See also: great, unwashed
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

great unwashed, the

The working classes. The term showed up in print in the early nineteenth century in Theodore Hook’s The Parson’s Daughter (1833), where it appears in quotation marks. Exactly who first coined the phrase is not known, but in Britain it was used to describe the rabble of the French Revolution who rose up against the privileged classes. Although Eric Partridge said that its snobbishness had made it obsolescent by the 1940s, it is still used ironically.
See also: great
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer

Great Unwashed

A disparaging term for the common man. The phrase first appeared in an 1830 novel, Paul Clifford, by the British novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton: “He is certainly a man who bathes and ‘lives cleanly,' (two especial charges preferred against him by Messrs. the Great Unwashed).” Among other cynics (although they would call themselves realists) who used the phrase was H. L. Mencken, who also referred to the majority of Americans as the “booboisie.”
See also: great, unwashed
Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price
See also:
References in periodicals archive ?
each) currant jelly; set unwashed empty jars and lids aside.
9 Low to High Now that the twentieth century is due to be buried, it's safe to reconsider the stuff modernist hierarchies sneered at, particularly art that was once immensely popular among the unwashed masses.
Some cuppers even place the unwashed Harrars there as well.
With Wall Street as full of scoundrels as ever--brokers who "churn" accounts to reap commissions; portfolio managers who leak their "favorite" stocks to the press, only to sell when the unwashed start buying--Buffett's probity stands in stark relief.
It blends three parts washed flake and two parts unwashed flake to save cost.
500 years ago, Queen Elizabeth I expressed concern for her great unwashed, in their filth and squalor.
Over four fifths said that they seen pupils turning up to school in inappropriate clothing, with similar proportions saying children had clothes that were unwashed, or damaged and frayed.
Here was a horseracing toff to whom the great unwashed could relate.
It's like poison in your veins that will not release you forever" Actress Louise Brealey on her profession "I cannot ever recall experiencing the Pavilion at Lord's both as full as it was for the Middlesex v Surrey 20/20 - and so crammed with such predominantly repulsive, ill-behaved apologies for membership of the human race - what for the most part I would regard as The Great Unwashed" John "Fingers" Fingleton, a stalwart of the MCC for more than 40 years
RESIDENTS in a nursing home where a war veteran died just ten days after moving in were unshaven with unwashed hair and long finger nails, an inquest was told.
Among the many problems with letting the unwashed masses decide the winner is their debased vulgarity."
Ser iously though, inserting any foreign objects into your vagina is risky - especially unwashed fruit and veg - as they could cause a nasty bacterial infection.
This type of statement is always used by the self-proclaimed avant garde as it implies that those of us among the great unwashed are too ignorant to comprehend such Olympian concepts.