pu·​tre·​fy ˈpyü-trə-ˌfī How to pronounce putrefy (audio)
putrefied; putrefying

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Choose the Right Synonym for putrefy

decay, decompose, rot, putrefy, spoil mean to undergo destructive dissolution.

decay implies a slow change from a state of soundness or perfection.

a decaying mansion

decompose stresses a breaking down by chemical change and when applied to organic matter a corruption.

the strong odor of decomposing vegetation

rot is a close synonym of decompose and often connotes foulness.

fruit was left to rot in warehouses

putrefy implies the rotting of animal matter and offensiveness to sight and smell.

corpses putrefying on the battlefield

spoil applies chiefly to the decomposition of foods.

keep the ham from spoiling

Example Sentences

we traced the bad smell to a dead skunk putrefying under the house
Recent Examples on the Web Many recipes that survive from antiquity call for allowing fish to putrefy in open vats under the Mediterranean sun for up to three months. Taras Grescoe, Smithsonian Magazine, 23 Oct. 2021 But some of the ailments Romans suffered boggle the mind—vicious fevers, wasting diseases and worms living in putrefying wounds that refused to heal. Edward Watts, Smithsonian Magazine, 28 Apr. 2020 But this, Marcus stresses, only causes our emotions to putrefy and fester. Barrett Swanson, Harper's magazine, 28 Oct. 2019 The paintings of putrefying corpses and splayed-open cadavers made by Hyman Bloom between 1943 and 1954 constitute one of the most extraordinary and disturbingly beautiful bodies of work in American art. Sebastian Smee, Washington Post, 31 July 2019 The injunction contends that long-distance travel does not broaden the mind, as commonly supposed, but putrefies the character by exposing it to impurity. Alex Perry, Outside Online, 24 July 2019 Soutine’s table is brutally buckled, and the roiling white tablecloth, yellowish-green, suggests putrefying flesh and pitching sea, nearly capsizing a standing jug and pitcher. Lance Esplund, WSJ, 2 May 2018 Sulfur atoms had started to bind with his hemoglobin, a process that would typically only occur in putrefying corpses. Sylvia Morrow, Discover Magazine, 6 Oct. 2017 Time, heat and water were Yaw’s enemies now, conspiring beneath the carpets to rot and putrefy. Jack Healy, New York Times, 2 Sep. 2017 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'putrefy.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Middle English putrefien, from Middle French & Latin; Middle French putrefier, from Latin putrefacere, from putrēre to be rotten + facere to make — more at do

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

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

Dictionary Entries Near putrefy

Cite this Entry

“Putrefy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/putrefy. Accessed 2 Oct. 2022.

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Medical Definition



pu·​tre·​fy ˈpyü-trə-ˌfī How to pronounce putrefy (audio)
putrefied; putrefying

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