• launder •
Pronunciation: lawn-dêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: 1. To thoroughly wash; to wash, iron, and fold. 2. To disguise the origin of dubious funds through a legitimate bank or business so as to make them look kosher. 3. To sanitize, clean up language, bowdlerize.
Notes: Today's word has endured much tinkering. Regular derivations include the noun laundry, which means dirty clothes before and after laundering, or the place where we take them to be laundered. Launderer is a person who launders. There are two words that reek of commercial tinkering, however: launderette and Laundromat, an establishment where customers may do their own laundry using coin-operated automatic machines.
In Play: The basic sense of today's Good Word is to thoroughly wash, iron, fold clothing, usually done by a professional laundry: "This shirt has been laundered so many times it's in tatters." Clothes go to the laundry to be cleaned, so we can understand the figurative sense of the word, too: "Robin Banks was caught red-handed when he tried to launder his drug money through a bank operating in cooperation with the FBI."
Word History: Today's Good Word in Middle English was lavender "washer, launderer", borrowed from Old French lavandier "washer, launderer". French inherited the word from Latin lavandaria "the wash, things to be washed". Lavandaria is a word derived from lavanda, the neuter plural gerund of lavare "to wash". This verb or its derivations underlie lavabo, lavatory, and lavish. In middle English the last word was laves, nicked from Old French lavasse "downpour", and polished up a bit. Old English received the same PIE root as leathran "to lather" through Ancient Germanic—today's lather. (Thank you, June Ransbotham of Atlanta, for your suggestion of today's Good Word. The language has been completely laundered by three editors.)