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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from pollute

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

Synonyms & Antonyms for pollute



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 The very rich are polluting even more than before, shunning the front sections of big planes for the luxury of flying in private jets instead. The Economist, "2019 in review: Protest and global warming," 28 Dec. 2019 Never a word mentioned about concern for polluting our environment. Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: HOV lanes: Yea or nay? (11/29/19)," 29 Nov. 2019 Any industry that harms its consumers, pollutes the planet and depends for its survival on political support is living on borrowed time, though. David Fickling | Bloomberg, Washington Post, "From Wyoming to Australia, Coal’s Heartlands Are Retreating," 25 Oct. 2019 However, the 1989 law was not the end of political attention to reducing the amount of waste that either went into landfills or wound up polluting streams, rivers and the Pacific Ocean. Dan Walters, The Mercury News, "Walters: California goal of reducing trash is a wasted effort," 8 Aug. 2019 Heavy foot, boat, and cruise traffic is polluting its delicate lagoon, and locals are leaving because of ballooning property values. Caitlin Etherton, National Geographic, "Venice is flooded with tourists—visit these floating cities instead," 16 May 2019 All that poop is polluting water sources, both in urban areas and the backcountry, largely because dog owners aren’t doing a good enough job picking it up. Wes Siler, Outside Online, "It’s Time to Talk About Dog Poop," 27 Mar. 2018 That source would grow as electric cars demand more and more electricity, unless tighter pollution controls are placed on power plants or electric utilities shift to less polluting sources such as solar. David Biello, Scientific American, "Electric Cars Are Not Necessarily Clean," 11 May 2016 New government policies, such as a carbon price, could see investors dump the assets of polluting companies. The Economist, "Carbon capture Central bankers debate tackling climate change," 12 Dec. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pollute

Time Traveler for pollute

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for pollute

Last Updated

21 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pollute.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pollute. Accessed 31 Mar. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on pollute

What made you want to look up pollute? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

March 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • field of crocuses
  • Which is a synonym of rectitudinous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!