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 Meanwhile, fertilizer runoff pollutes the environment. Matthew Hutson, The New Yorker, 6 Feb. 2024 By the mid-1980s, the animals numbered over 1,000, and neighboring communities were complaining that the monkeys had destroyed mangroves, polluted the water with their poop, and even escaped to other islands. Erika Fry, Fortune, 27 Jan. 2024 The shallow Coastal Aquifer beneath Gaza and that part of Israel is already polluted, by sea water seeping in, agricultural runoff, and waste water. Adam Taylor, Washington Post, 13 Dec. 2023 Big Oil is selling off its polluting assets — with unintended consequences Sall is among the leaders and energy analysts who argue that natural gas in particular will be necessary for getting electricity into the homes of the 600 million people on the continent who lack it. Rachel Chason, Washington Post, 31 Jan. 2024 Nearly every American has a measurable amount of PFAS in their blood, and the chemicals pollute more than 80% of U.S. waterways. Claire Bugos, Verywell Health, 29 Jan. 2024 Sewage from a Howard County water treatment plant polluted the Little Patuxent River last week. Dillon Mullan, Baltimore Sun, 14 Jan. 2024 Cutting emissions means moving out of new industrial technologies to replace polluting ones. Ed Ballard, WSJ, 21 Dec. 2023 The chemicals have spewed from manufacturing plants and landfills into local ecosystems, polluting surface water and groundwater, and the wildlife living there. Hannah Norman, Fortune Well, 1 Dec. 2023 See More

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 21 Feb. 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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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