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 sterilely (audio) , chiefly British  -​ˌī(-​ə)(l)-​lē \ adverb
sterility \ stə-​ˈri-​lə-​tē How to pronounce sterility (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 Syringe service programs that provide sterile needles — as well as Narcan, the overdose reversing drug, and treatment for hepatitis and HIV — are now being offered by 25 agencies, up from 13 last year. Georgea Kovanis, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan to offer opioid addiction treatment in prison, increase syringe exchange programs," 14 Nov. 2019 This was to limit the possibility of contamination, since what was about to happen was not entirely sterile. oregonlive, "The tragic, redemptive journey of one human heart," 5 Oct. 2019 Meanwhile, countertop-to-ceiling quartzite backsplash gave an interesting texture to the kitchen, while warm wood prevented the room from feeling cold and sterile. Selena Barrientos, House Beautiful, "Joanna Gaines Says the Aguilar House Is Her All-Time Favorite Fixer Upper Project," 23 Sep. 2019 Along with a safe environment for those who would use elsewhere, most provide health services like sterile needles and first aid., "Should Massachusetts allow safe injection sites for addicts?," 14 Sep. 2019 But those areas can feel corporate or sterile, or, worse, become a ghost town when the 9-to-5ers head home. Danielle Mcnally, Marie Claire, "How to Make the Most of a Solo Work Trip," 12 Nov. 2019 Getting the treatment at a dermatologist's office will also ensure the needles are sterile, which is crucial for preventing skin damage and infection. April Franzino, Good Housekeeping, "What Is Microneedling — and Is It Safe?," 29 July 2019 Fans complain that the London Stadium is sterile, soulless and offers worse sightlines than watching from the international space station. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "Coming to London: Yankees vs. Red Sox vs. the Great British Summer," 25 June 2019 Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders snapped an iconic one on Christmas Eve in 1968, showing our blue planet suspended in darkness near the moon’s sterile, cratered horizon. National Geographic, "Countdown to a new era inSpace," 17 June 2019

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

11 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Sterile.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 13 December 2019.

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

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Comments on sterile

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


easily led, controlled, or managed

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