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

Examples of disinfect in a Sentence

Chemicals were added to disinfect the water. The wound needs to be disinfected.
Recent Examples on the Web While this process won't entirely disinfect your screen, a wipe followed by a microfiber cloth touch-up will clean your screen perfectly. Zee Krstic, Good Housekeeping, 22 June 2021 After resuming production, other automakers publicly announced when workers tested positive for the virus and halted production to prevent further infection among employees and to disinfect work areas. BostonGlobe.com, 13 Mar. 2021 But health officials do believe UV light can help disinfect areas where the coronavirus is present. cincinnati.com, 10 Dec. 2020 The agency blames a lack of technology to adequately disinfect ballast tanks. Dan Egan, jsonline.com, 2 Sep. 2021 The New York Times has documented months of problems at the plant, including failures to properly disinfect equipment and to protect against viral and bacterial contamination. New York Times, 11 June 2021 Versiti takes extra precautions to thoroughly disinfect areas before, during and after each donation. Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press, 7 June 2021 In May, China’s Agriculture Ministry said the H5N8 strain of bird flu killed hundreds of wild birds in Tibet, prompting authorities to disinfect areas including a national wetland park. WSJ, 2 June 2021 Another aunt, a 56-year-old homemaker, had also frantically called me in April 2020 asking how to disinfect fruit and vegetables. Manavi Kapur, Quartz, 25 Mar. 2021

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

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The first known use of disinfect was in 1658

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Last Updated

29 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Disinfect.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disinfect. Accessed 7 Dec. 2021.

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More Definitions for disinfect



English Language Learners Definition of disinfect

: to clean (something) especially by using a chemical substance that kills all germs and bacteria
: 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 disinfect (audio) \ noun


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