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Pronunciation: de-ter'jent


  1. Cleansing.
  2. A cleansing or purging agent, usually salts of long-chain aliphatic bases or acids (quaternary ammonium or sulfonic acid compounds) that, through a surface action that depends on their possessing both hydrophilic and hydrophobic properties, exert cleansing (oil-dissolving) and antibacterial effects; acridine derivatives (acriflavine, proflavine) as well as other dyes (brilliant green, crystal violet) have detergent properties for the same reasons.

Synonym(s): detersive

[L. de-tergeo, pp. -tersus, to wipe off]

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