pollute

verb

pol·​lute pə-ˈlüt How to pronounce pollute (audio)
polluted; polluting

transitive verb

1
a
: to make ceremonially or morally impure : defile
b
: debase sense 1
using language to deceive or mislead pollutes languageLinda C. Lederman
2
a
: to make physically impure or unclean : befoul, dirty
b
: to contaminate (an environment) especially with man-made waste
polluter noun
pollutive adjective
Choose the Right Synonym for pollute

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 pollute in a Sentence

Miles of beaches were polluted by the oil spill. Car exhaust pollutes the air.
Recent Examples on the Web Fake eclipse glasses 'polluting the marketplace' Don't fall for fake eclipse glasses, either. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, 2 Apr. 2024 Many of the older chemicals, including PBDE, still exist in vintage items, such as the foam in older sofas and carpet padding, but a key route of exposure is contamination — flame retardants have leached from landfills over decades to pollute the air, soil, groundwater, rivers and streams. Sandee Lamotte, CNN, 1 Apr. 2024 Like many Rust Belt communities, her hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania, has suffered both economic and environmental distress: Thousands of manufacturing jobs have vanished, but chemicals from the steel plants still pollute Braddock’s skies. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, 27 Mar. 2024 Meanwhile, discharges have polluted the Tijuana River and beaches on both sides of the border, impacting the health and economy of those who live and work in those communities. Tammy Murga, San Diego Union-Tribune, 24 Mar. 2024 According to the German publication, a local water utility found evidence that the factory has been polluting the water supply with phosphorus and nitrogen compounds at levels up to six times the legal limit. Steve Mollman, Fortune, 8 Mar. 2024 The largely working-class neighborhood of around 75,000 has also been historically impacted by a multitude of polluting industries like manufacturing, freeway construction, the nearby Whiteman Airport and a Metrolink line. Edwin Flores, NBC News, 1 Mar. 2024 At this point in human history, plastics are everywhere—their tiny fragments pollute the environment, as well as both bottled and tap water. Will Sullivan, Smithsonian Magazine, 19 Mar. 2024 Sterilizing facilities had polluted the air unchecked for decades, leading to disproportionately high cancer risks in surrounding communities. Lizzy Lawrence, STAT, 14 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'pollute.' 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, from Latin pollutus, past participle of polluere, from por- (akin to Latin per through) + -luere (akin to Latin lutum mud, Greek lyma dirt, defilement) — more at for

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of pollute was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near pollute

Cite this Entry

“Pollute.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pollute. Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

pollute

verb
pol·​lute pə-ˈlüt How to pronounce pollute (audio)
polluted; polluting
: to make impure
especially : to spoil (as a natural resource) with waste made by humans
industrial wastes polluted the river

Medical Definition

pollute

transitive verb
pol·​lute pə-ˈlüt How to pronounce pollute (audio)
polluted; polluting
1
: to make physically impure or unclean
2
: to contaminate (an environment) especially with man-made waste
polluter noun
pollutive adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on pollute

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