Do the Dishes: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
December 20, 2023

The expression "do the dishes" is a straightforward way of talking about washing your plates, glasses, utensils, and pots after a meal. This phrase is commonly used in household settings, but you might hear it in shared living spaces like dorms or communal kitchens. The task usually involves soap, water, and a bit of elbow grease.

In short:

  • It's about cleaning food and cooking items after use.
  • The phrase often comes up in home life but can be relevant in any communal eating area.

What Does "Do the Dishes" Mean?

When someone says, "do the dishes," they're talking about washing the items used for eating or cooking. This could be after a meal at home, a dinner party, or even a potluck. The phrase is a way to refer to a regular chore that many people engage in daily. For example, you might hear someone say, "I cooked, so you do the dishes," in a household setting.

Here's a closer look at its core meanings and uses:

  • It means to wash and clean plates, glasses, silverware, and sometimes pots and pans.
  • People say it when they want to share household tasks or when the kitchen is cluttered.
  • The phrase usually means you'll be using soap and water, but it could also include loading a dishwasher.
  • It's often heard in homes but can apply in any setting where people eat and cook.
  • Other ways to say it include "wash the dishes," "clean up," or "take care of the kitchen."

Where Does "Do the Dishes" Come From?

The origin of "do the dishes" is not particularly mysterious. The term has been in use for many years and is part of everyday language. It probably evolved from the simple need to discuss domestic chores and tasks. The phrase has since become a staple in conversations about household duties.

Historical Example

"After dinner, Sarah said she would do the dishes while Peter took out the garbage, exemplifying how chores were divided in their home."

- A Day in the Life of an American Family, 1952

10 Examples of "Do the Dishes" in Sentences

To give you a better idea of how to use "do the dishes," here are some examples from different situations:

  • Of course not; I didn’t forget to do the dishes.
  • After you do the dishes, is there anything else you need help with around the house?
  • When she had guests over, Jane did the dishes right away to avoid a messy kitchen.
  • Back in the day, we used to do the dishes by hand - no fancy dishwashers in sight.
  • I barely made it to the end of the party last night, but I still had to do the dishes.
  • He told her not to worry about doing the dishes because he'd take care of it later.
  • The chef did the dishes himself after a cooking demo to show good kitchen habits.
  • Despite her busy schedule, Jane managed to pull off all her tasks, including doing the dishes.
  • After the big Thanksgiving meal, the family pitched in to do the dishes.
  • Tim decided to take the lead this time and do the dishes before anyone else had a chance to complain.

Examples of "Do the Dishes" in Pop Culture

This phrase also pops up in movies, TV shows, and other media when talking about household chores or shared responsibilities.

Here are some examples:

  • In the online article titled “Doing Dishes Is the Worst” by Caroline Kitchener, it is empirically proven that dishwashing causes more relationship distress than any other household task.
  • The TV show “Who’s Doing the Dishes?” is a series where five different celebrities cook a meal for a group of four strangers, who must figure out the identity of each celebrity in order to win cash prizes.
  • The song “Grow Old with You” by Adam Sandler contains the lyrics: "So let me do the dishes in our kitchen sink, Put you to bed when you’ve had too much to drink."

Synonyms: Other Ways to Say "Do the Dishes"

If you're looking for different ways to talk about this chore, check these out:

  • Wash up
  • Clean the dishes
  • Tidy the kitchen
  • Take care of the dishes
  • Handle the cleanup
  • Clear the table
  • Wash the utensils
  • Scrub the pots
  • Load the dishwasher
  • Rinse the plates

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Do the Dishes"

  • What does "do the dishes" mean?

"Do the dishes" means washing the plates, cups, pots, and other kitchenware used for eating and cooking. It's a common phrase used to describe a household chore.

  • How can I use "do the dishes" in a sentence?

You can use "do the dishes" as a verb phrase to talk about the act of cleaning kitchen utensils. For example: "After you eat, can you do the dishes?" or "I did the dishes while you were out."

  • Is it a chore for one person, or can it be a group activity?

Usually, one person does the dishes, but it can also be a group activity, especially after big meals or events. For example, after Thanksgiving dinner, the whole family might pitch in to do the dishes.

  • Can it be a way to unwind or relax?

For some people, doing the dishes can be a way to unwind or take a break. The repetitive motion and warm water can be calming.

  • Is "doing the dishes" only about washing them?

No, doing the dishes also includes drying them and putting them away, unless you're using a dishwasher, which takes care of those steps for you.

  • How do people usually feel about doing this chore?

Feelings about doing the dishes can vary. Some people find it tedious, while others see it as a simple task that provides a sense of accomplishment.

  • Can it be a point of tension in relationships?

Yes, doing the dishes can sometimes cause tension in households or relationships, especially if one person feels they're always stuck with the chore.

  • Is it used figuratively in language?

Yes, "do the dishes" can be used figuratively to talk about taking care of less desirable tasks or responsibilities in any context, not just in the kitchen.

  • Is it more often a daily chore or a weekly chore?

It's usually a daily chore, especially in households where meals are regularly cooked. Dirty dishes can pile up quickly, so it's often tackled daily.

  • What's the best way to make it less tedious?

Listening to music, podcasts, or even watching a show can make doing the dishes less tedious for some people.

Final Thoughts About "Do the Dishes"

The phrase "do the dishes" is a straightforward way to talk about a common household chore. It can be a solo or group activity, and people have different feelings about it. Whether you see it as a tedious task or a chance to unwind, it's a chore that's usually done daily.

Here's a quick recap:

  • It usually means washing, drying, and putting away kitchenware.
  • It can be a daily or group activity.
  • The phrase can also be used in a figurative sense.
  • People have mixed feelings about the chore, and it can be a point of tension.

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