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 If you’ve been bitten, simply clean the wound with soap and water, and if available, apply a mild antiseptic such as rubbing alcohol to disinfect the bite wound. Andres Picon, San Francisco Chronicle, 23 Apr. 2022 People in Xi’an have been told to stay home as workers sprayed pathogen-killing solutions onto roads and buildings to disinfect the city. Saphora Smith, NBC News, 7 Jan. 2022 At Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL), for example, ultraviolet tunnels at Terminal 3 help disinfect luggage in baggage areas. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, 28 June 2020 Clean and disinfect potentially contaminated surfaces while wearing gloves. Serena Coady, SELF, 7 Apr. 2022 Wipes and hand sanitizer are available throughout to disinfect and keep everything COVID safe. Jerald Pierce, chicagotribune.com, 15 Oct. 2021 For further safety, autonomous bots may be implemented to disinfect store environments and even monitor for and alert employees of potential workplace risks. Guy Yehiav, Forbes, 17 June 2021 Indoor family entertainment centers and outdoor amusement parks must require face coverings, collect contact information from guests, clean and disinfect certain attractions and provide enough staff to ensure compliance with COVID-19 rules. Marina Villeneuve, USA TODAY, 18 Feb. 2021 Restaurants and airlines use these to quickly disinfect a space between uses, and some Boston real estate agents are even enlisting them to help clean up after an open house. BostonGlobe.com, 11 Apr. 2021 See More

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.

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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The first known use of disinfect was in 1658

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Last Updated

9 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Disinfect.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disinfect. Accessed 16 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for disinfect


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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