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 Its light detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensors follow the room's dimensions and can disinfect a room in 10 to 12 minutes. Brett Molina, USA TODAY, "CES 2021: The robots are still coming. These are some of the best ones on the way," 11 Jan. 2021 Houses of worship must conduct screenings before visitors enter and disinfect worship spaces between services. Jaclyn Cosgrove, Los Angeles Times, "L.A. County allows churches to meet indoors after recent court rulings," 21 Dec. 2020 An electrostatic spraying system using a hospital grade sanitizer was purchased to disinfect all public spaces, seating and touch points throughout the terminal and other buildings at a cost of $5,000. Ron Wood, Arkansas Online, "XNA officials considering air cleaning systems," 18 Dec. 2020 United Airlines has implemented a new cleaning measure to disinfect terminals at 35 airports and prevent spread of Covid-19. cleveland, "United Airlines using new Clorox electrostatic sprayers to disinfect airport terminals," 12 Nov. 2020 Gerba has been working with Boeing on establishing aircraft cleaning methods that disinfect against the novel coronavirus. Kimi Robinson, The Arizona Republic, "Should you host a Thanksgiving gathering? Here's what AZ experts say about holiday safety," 9 Nov. 2020 Laboratory tests revealed the spray can kill virus particles in 60 seconds, and the spray can also disinfect hard surfaces in five minutes. Zee Krstic, Good Housekeeping, "Microban's Sanitizing Spray Just Received EPA Approval to Kill Coronavirus," 29 Oct. 2020 An employee with Westgate for three years, Seda now follows a detailed checklist of places to disinfect in every room, part of the safety protocols the resort chain put into practice at their seven Orlando-area hotels. Trevor Fraser, orlandosentinel.com, "Keeping it clean: Orlando hotels ramp up sanitation hoping to lure travelers during pandemic," 22 Oct. 2020 Simpler personally helps keep the hallways cleaned and filled with hand sanitizer, and monitors crews that disinfect every seat after each showing. CBS News, "Here's what it's like going to the movies during the COVID-19 pandemic," 6 Oct. 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

21 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Disinfect.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disinfect. Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.

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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 disinfect (audio) \ noun

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