dis·​in·​fect | \ ˌdis-in-ˈfekt How to pronounce disinfect (audio) \
disinfected; disinfecting; disinfects

Definition of disinfect

transitive verb

1 : to cleanse (a surface, a device, a supply of water, etc.) by destroying, inactivating, or significantly reducing the concentration of pathogenic agents (such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi) : to treat (something) with a disinfectant (such as chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, or sodium hypochlorite) … medical experts say some scopes can be difficult to disinfect through conventional cleaning because of their design, so bacteria are transmitted from patient to patient.— Chad Terhune Trihalomethanes are chemicals formed when chlorine used to disinfect water reacts with organic matter, such as animal waste, treated sewage, leaves, or soil.— Emily Main Clean your humidifier often. Although some parts may be washable in the dishwasher, they still need to be descaled with vinegar and disinfected with bleach.Consumer Reports
2 : to relieve (something) of some undesirable quality likened to a disease or infection But the big question is this: If the bill becomes law, will it truly disinfect our politics?— Nancy Gibbs and Karen Tumulty
3 : to remove a software virus (see virus sense 3) from (a computer or device) often by means of a special program The earliest viruses were relatively simple routines, and virus detectors could easily disinfect computers.— Philips Chien

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Examples of disinfect in a Sentence

Chemicals were added to disinfect the water. The wound needs to be disinfected.
Recent Examples on the Web The World Health Organization says there is no need to disinfect food packaging. Jon Emont, WSJ, "China Wants to Screen You for Coronavirus—and Your Frozen Fish," 16 Oct. 2020 There are also new sanitizing protocols, including more time between patients to disinfect equipment. Kate Santich, orlandosentinel.com, "Breast cancer screenings take on new urgency amid COVID," 15 Oct. 2020 Tosa Block Party uses Clean Spaces MKE for ULV fogging to disinfect the space. Hannah Kirby, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "'Play cafe by day and a bar by night': Tosa Block Party septuples in size to include a Lego-themed bar and new amenities," 15 Oct. 2020 The drones are being used to disinfect the seating bowl, handrails and glass partitions in the stadium after events. Allen Kim, CNN, "The Atlanta Falcons will use 'disinfecting drones' to sanitize the team's stadium when it welcomes back fans this month," 1 Oct. 2020 Buckets of cleaning wipes sit outside classrooms for students to disinfect their seats before and after class. Washington Post, "After weeks of chaos, a slow return to in-person classes and wide-scale testing bring some stability to D.C.-area universities," 23 Sep. 2020 In order to properly disinfect, Honest Company disinfectant spray needs to stay on a surface for 10 minutes before being wiped down. Christina Butan, PEOPLE.com, "Jessica Alba’s Honest Company Disinfectant Spray Can Kill Coronavirus in 10 Minutes — and It’s on Amazon," 16 Sep. 2020 Others bought robots that independently enter a room and disinfect it with chemicals or ultraviolet light. David Berreby, National Geographic, "The pandemic has been good for one kind of worker: robots," 3 Sep. 2020 Clean and disinfect the high-touch areas of the car after driving. Lila Maclellan, Quartz at Work, "Carpooling is poised to make a comeback this fall," 9 Sep. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'disinfect.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of disinfect

1658, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for disinfect

Middle French desinfecter, from des- dis- + infecter to infect

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Time Traveler for disinfect

Time Traveler

The first known use of disinfect was in 1658

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Statistics for disinfect

Last Updated

23 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Disinfect.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disinfect. Accessed 31 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for disinfect


How to pronounce disinfect (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of disinfect

: to clean (something) especially by using a chemical substance that kills all germs and bacteria
computers : to remove a virus from (a computer) by using a special program


dis·​in·​fect | \ ˌdi-sᵊn-ˈfekt How to pronounce disinfect (audio) \
disinfected; disinfecting

Kids Definition of disinfect

: to cleanse of germs that might cause disease


transitive verb
dis·​in·​fect | \ ˌdis-ᵊn-ˈfekt How to pronounce disinfect (audio) \

Medical Definition of disinfect

: to destroy, inactivate, or significantly reduce the concentration of pathogenic agents (as bacteria, viruses, and fungi) especially on hard surfaces and in water : to treat (something) with a disinfectant (as chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, or sodium hypochlorite)

Other Words from disinfect

disinfection \ -​ˈfek-​shən How to pronounce disinfection (audio) \ noun

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