ster·​ile | \ ˈster-əl How to pronounce sterile (audio) , chiefly British -ˌī(-ə)l \

Definition of sterile

1a : failing to bear or incapable of producing fruit or spores
b : failing to produce or incapable of producing offspring a sterile hybrid
c : incapable of germinating sterile spores
d of a flower : neither perfect nor pistillate
2a : unproductive of vegetation a sterile arid region
b : free from living organisms and especially pathogenic microorganisms a sterile syringe
c : lacking in stimulating emotional or intellectual quality : lifeless a sterile work of art

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Other Words from sterile

sterilely \ ˈster-​ə(l)-​lē How to pronounce sterile (audio) , chiefly British  -​ˌī(-​ə)(l)-​lē \ adverb
sterility \ stə-​ˈri-​lə-​tē How to pronounce sterile (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for sterile



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Examples of sterile in a Sentence

a sterile dressing for a wound sterile couples sometimes choose to adopt needy children
Recent Examples on the Web Kevitch thought dating apps on the whole were too sterile. Jocelyn Silver, Vogue, "A Trip Inside the Lox Club, the “Jewish Raya”," 29 Dec. 2020 According to the product's online listing, the at-home testing kit comes with a sterile nasal swab, a dropper and processing fluid, as well as an analyzer that connects to an individual's smartphone through Bluetooth and an associated app. Nicholas Rice,, "FDA Approves At-Home COVID-19 Test That Works for Children Over 2 and Doesn't Require Prescription," 16 Dec. 2020 Positive pressure means that air is always flowing out of the room, so the inside stays sterile. Rebecca Renner, Science, "How scientists plan to protect Earth from extraterrestrial germs," 11 Dec. 2020 Pate negotiated with a nurse to sprinkle the patient’s forehead with a sterile solution while the chaplain recited the ceremony via a video call on a computer. USA Today, "How the South and Southwest became the global epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic," 10 Dec. 2020 Support within the Memphis community has been strong: An institutional space where children stay until they’re placed with a foster family was transformed from a sterile environment to a more welcoming area in January. Vanessa Infanzon, Washington Post, "Foster parents need a village. This Austin mom gave them one.," 8 Dec. 2020 The central nervous system, which is supposed to be a sterile environment, is colonized by a somewhat diverse viral community. David Pride, Scientific American, "Viruses Can Help Us as Well as Harm Us," 7 Dec. 2020 Vaccines typically contain materials from suppliers that can include antivirus agents, antiseptic liquids, sterile water and elements of the DNA of the virus itself that won’t cause serious symptoms but trigger the immune system to make antibodies. Costas Paris, WSJ, "Pfizer Slashed Its Original Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout Target After Supply-Chain Obstacles," 3 Dec. 2020 Per a statement, the findings led the team to suspect that bugs may have defecated on the works of art before their archives were upgraded to the sterile, laboratory-like standards of today. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, "Hidden Microbes and Fungi Found on the Surface of Leonardo da Vinci Drawings," 30 Nov. 2020

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for sterile

Middle English steryle, from Latin sterilis; akin to Goth stairo barren animal, Sanskrit starī sterile cow

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Time Traveler for sterile

Time Traveler

The first known use of sterile was in the 15th century

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Statistics for sterile

Last Updated

15 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sterile.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for sterile


How to pronounce sterile (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of sterile

: not able to produce crops or plants
: not able to produce children, young animals, etc.
: not able to grow or develop


ster·​ile | \ ˈster-əl How to pronounce sterile (audio) \

Kids Definition of sterile

1 : not able to produce fruit, crops, or offspring : not fertile sterile soil
2 : free from living germs a sterile bandage


ster·​ile | \ ˈster-əl, chiefly British -ˌīl \

Medical Definition of sterile

1 : failing to produce or incapable of producing offspring a sterile hybrid — compare infertile
2 : free from living organisms and especially microorganisms a sterile syringe a sterile cyst

Other Words from sterile

sterilely \ -​əl-​(l)ē How to pronounce sterile (audio) \ adverb
sterility \ stə-​ˈril-​ət-​ē How to pronounce sterile (audio) \ noun, plural sterilities

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