contaminate

verb

con·​tam·​i·​nate kən-ˈta-mə-ˌnāt How to pronounce contaminate (audio)
contaminated; contaminating

transitive verb

1
a
: to soil, stain, corrupt, or infect by contact or association
Bacteria contaminated the wound.
b
: to make inferior or impure by admixture
iron contaminated with phosphorus
2
: to make unfit for use by the introduction of unwholesome or undesirable elements
water contaminated by sewage
contaminative adjective
contaminator noun

Did you know?

Contaminate, taint, pollute, and defile mean to make impure or unclean. Contaminate implies intrusion of or contact with dirt or foulness from an outside source (logically enough, it derives from the Latin word tangere, meaning "to touch"). Taint stresses a loss of purity or cleanliness that follows contact ("tainted meat"). Pollute, sometimes interchangeable with contaminate, may imply that the process which begins with contamination is complete and that what was pure or clean has been made foul, poisoned, or filthy ("the polluted waters of the river"). Defile implies befouling of what could or should have been kept clean and pure or held sacred, and commonly suggests violation or desecration ("vandals defiled the mausoleum").

Choose the Right Synonym for contaminate

contaminate, taint, pollute, defile mean to make impure or unclean.

contaminate implies intrusion of or contact with dirt or foulness from an outside source.

water contaminated by industrial wastes

taint stresses the loss of purity or cleanliness that follows contamination.

tainted meat
a politician's tainted reputation

pollute, sometimes interchangeable with contaminate, distinctively may imply that the process which begins with contamination is complete and that what was pure or clean has been made foul, poisoned, or filthy.

the polluted waters of the river

defile implies befouling of what could or should have been kept clean and pure or held sacred and commonly suggests violation or desecration.

defile a hero's memory with slanderous innuendo

Examples of contaminate in a Sentence

Be careful not to allow bacteria to contaminate the wound. Don't touch the microchip or the oil on your hands will contaminate it. Make sure the white paint is not contaminated by any of the other colors.
Recent Examples on the Web Fentanyl is contaminating every type of street drug, like methamphetamine, and this opioid radically alters a person’s brain chemistry. Jim Vargas, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2 Apr. 2024 The agency advises avoiding direct contact with sick or dead animals, as well as any materials that may have been contaminated by an animal infected with avian flu. Jamie Ducharme, TIME, 1 Apr. 2024 Cancer can spread from the remaining lung, contaminating the new one, and surgical incisions can allow cancer cells to leak into the bloodstream. Kaitlin Sullivan, NBC News, 30 Mar. 2024 Investigators are looking into whether the power outage that appears to have led the Dali to hit the Key Bridge was caused by dirty fuel, contaminated by water, dirt and algae that could clog filters in the ship’s main generator. Adam Taylor, Washington Post, 28 Mar. 2024 Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes after contact with birds or surfaces that may be contaminated with saliva, mucous, or feces from wild or domestic birds. USA TODAY, 26 Mar. 2024 In the new revival, Jeremy Strong plays a physician, Thomas Stockmann, who learns that lucrative mineral springs in his small Norwegian town are contaminated with potentially deadly bacteria. Zach Helfand, The New Yorker, 24 Mar. 2024 This announcement comes on the heels of another Trader Joe's recall—on March 4, the company recalled its popular Steamed Chicken Soup Dumplings over concerns that the product could be contaminated with hard plastic pieces. Julia Landwehr, Health, 19 Mar. 2024 Ultimately, cinnamon has a place in a safe and healthy diet as long as it’s not contaminated with lead or other dangerous substances. Lauren Manaker Ms, Rdn, Ld, Clec, Verywell Health, 11 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'contaminate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English contaminaten, borrowed from Latin contāminātus, past participle of contāmināre "to defile, pollute," from con- con- + -tāmināre, verbal derivative of *tāmen "touching, contact," going back to *tāg-(s)men, from tag-, variant stem of tangere "to touch" + *-(s)men, noun suffix of result — more at tangent entry 2

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of contaminate was in the 15th century

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Dictionary Entries Near contaminate

Cite this Entry

“Contaminate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/contaminate. Accessed 14 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

contaminate

verb
con·​tam·​i·​nate kən-ˈtam-ə-ˌnāt How to pronounce contaminate (audio)
contaminated; contaminating
1
: to soil, stain, or infect by contact or association
2
: to make impure or unfit for use by adding something harmful or unpleasant
wells contaminated by chemicals
contamination
-ˌtam-ə-ˈnā-shən
noun
contaminator noun

Medical Definition

contaminate

transitive verb
con·​tam·​i·​nate kən-ˈtam-ə-ˌnāt How to pronounce contaminate (audio)
contaminated; contaminating
1
: to soil, stain, or infect by contact or association
bacteria contaminated the wound
2
: to make unfit for use by the introduction of unwholesome or undesirable elements
water contaminated by sewage
contaminative adjective
contaminator noun

More from Merriam-Webster on contaminate

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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