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

Definition of pollute

transitive verb

1a : to make ceremonially or morally impure : defile
b : debase sense 1 using language to deceive or mislead pollutes language— Linda C. Lederman
2a : to make physically impure or unclean : befoul, dirty
b : to contaminate (an environment) especially with man-made waste

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Other Words from pollute

polluter noun
pollutive \ pə-​ˈlü-​tiv How to pronounce pollutive (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for pollute



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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 Cassini did the first part with its Cosmic Dust Analyzer, which found that Saturn’s rings are being steadily polluted by darker material — a mixture of rocky dust and organic compounds. Quanta Magazine, "Are Saturn’s Rings Really as Young as the Dinosaurs?," 26 Nov. 2019 As Chennai has grown, natural water bodies have been squeezed and polluted by the expanding metropolis. Anchorage Daily News, "As a major Indian city runs out of water, 9 million people pray for rain," 2 July 2019 In mountains outside the Montana capital of Helena, about 30 households can’t drink their tap water because groundwater was polluted by about 150 abandoned gold, lead and copper mines that operated from the 1870s until 1953. Matthew Brown, The Seattle Times, "50M gallons of polluted water pours daily from US mine sites," 20 Feb. 2019 The same holds for many other heavy-polluting industries that fled overseas in the wake of global trade agreements. Mark Schapiro, Newsweek, "COP21: Cities Move to Climate Talks' Center Stage," 15 Nov. 2015 For example, a business that pollutes creates a negative externality that costs its community and society. Max Lockie, Quartz, "US businesses want immunity from coronavirus lawsuits," 24 Apr. 2020 The Supreme Court sided loosely with environmentalists Thursday in a case that threatened to ease the regulatory burden on industries that pollute lakes, rivers and oceans indirectly. Richard Wolf, USA TODAY, "Supreme Court gives environmentalists narrow win in water pollution case," 23 Apr. 2020 As recently as three years ago, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe fought to stop the building of an oil pipeline that could pollute water on its reservation, in violation of two treaties that guaranteed it sovereignty over natural resources. Laila Lalami, Harper's Magazine, "Bright Stars," 30 Mar. 2020 The town also deals with the toxic legacy of a former Monsanto plant that for decades polluted the soil and water with PCBs, which were banned in the 1970s amid health concerns. Todd C. Frankel, Washington Post, "Coronavirus rumors and chaos in Alabama point to big problems as U.S. seeks to contain virus," 1 Mar. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pollute.' 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 pollute

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

History and Etymology for pollute

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

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Time Traveler for pollute

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for pollute

Last Updated

16 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pollute.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pollute. Accessed 25 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for pollute


How to pronounce pollute (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of pollute

: to make (land, water, air, etc.) dirty and not safe or suitable to use


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

Kids Definition of pollute

: to spoil or make impure especially with waste made by humans Factories pollute the stream.

Other Words from pollute

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

Medical Definition of pollute

1 : to make physically impure or unclean
2 : to contaminate (an environment) especially with man-made waste

Other Words from pollute

polluter noun
pollutive \ -​ˈlüt-​iv How to pronounce pollutive (audio) \ adjective

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More from Merriam-Webster on pollute

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for pollute

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with pollute

Spanish Central: Translation of pollute

Nglish: Translation of pollute for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pollute for Arabic Speakers

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