What Does Clear the Air Mean?

To Clear the Air Meaning

Definition: To explain a misunderstanding or to discuss a situation in order to make it less tense.

Origin of Clear the Air

The expression clear the air comes from nature. On a misty or foggy day, the water vapor in the air can obscure the view and make it hard to see clearly. Winds come and clear the air, meaning they blow the fog away and make it easy to see again.

The expression uses the same idea metaphorically. Lies or misunderstanding can cloud a situation and make it difficult to clearly understand what happened.

This figurative usage has existed since the 1300s. A man named John Wyclif used the expression,

  • Winds of truth should blow away heresies, and clear the airs of holy church, which is now full troubled.

Examples of Clear the Air

define clearing the airIn this conversation, two high school students are talking about a fight they had earlier in the week.

Lisa: Hey, Jackie. Do you have a moment to talk?

Jackie: I guess.

Lisa: I just wanted to apologize for what I said earlier, and clear the air.

Jackie: Yeah?

Lisa: Yeah. When I said those things, it’s only because someone else lied to me about you. I never should have believed that person. I definitely shouldn’t have blamed you either.  I hope you can forgive me.

meaning of clearing the airIn the dialogue below, two friends are discussing a couple they know that is in a fight.

Seth: Those two are perfect together. I hope they can figure out a way to solve this problem that they’re having.

Jimmy: Yeah. Right now they are refusing to even talk to each other. Maybe we could get them in the same room and convince them to clear the air.   

Seth: It’s worth a try. If they can just explain what happened, I’m sure they’ll make up.

More Examples

In this excerpt, one woman wanted to explain herself to another woman. The first woman had gone on a date with the second woman’s ex-boyfriend.

  • I wrote her back. Although it wasn’t my duty to clear the air, I felt the need to stand up for myself. I told her that I’d met him on a dating site and that he didn’t immediately disclose his baggage or baggage-to-be. –LA Times

A well-known TV personality wanted to explain that he did not support either of the two main candidates in a national election. 

  • After penning a Facebook post over the weekend that left some of his supporters believing he would back Hillary Clinton for president, Glenn Beck wants to clear the air: He’s not supporting her, or Donald Trump.  LA Times


The phrase to clear the air means to explain the events leading up to, or the motives behind,  a confusing or contentious situation.

The purpose is to diffuse the tension and make the situation more clear.