wash one's hands of

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From The Bible's account of Pontius Pilate washing his hands and refusing to condemn Jesus. Matthew Ch.27:24

Verb[edit]

wash one's hands of

  1. (idiomatic) To absolve oneself of responsibility or future blame for; to refuse to have any further involvement with.
    • 1884, H. Rider Haggard, Dawn, ch. 51:
      It was no affair of his; he had long ago washed his hands of the whole matter.
    • 1916, Rex Ellingwood Beach, Rainbow's End, ch. 20:
      Although Norine had pretended to wash her hands of all responsibility for Branch's little charge, she was by no means so inhuman as she appeared.
    • 1936 June 8, "National Affairs: Ditch Up, Dam Down," Time:
      [A]fter Congress had refused to appropriate money to continue them, President Roosevelt washed his hands of the two ventures.
    • 2003 March 13, "Immigration: Vermont Refugee Aid Group Says Policy Thins Resources," New York Times (retrieved 27 July 2011):
      Janet Dench, the executive director of the Canadian Council for refugees, said that both countries are “washing their hands” of the problem.
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