sterile

adjective
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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Synonyms

Antonyms

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 Pour jelly into sterile, small decorative jars, leaving ¼-inch head space. Nancy Stohs, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "14 Holiday Cookie Contest winning recipes, ahead of this year's Dec. 4 reveal," 29 Nov. 2019 The Von Braun’s living areas are bland and sterile, strewn with potted plants and art screens that cycle between a handful of fuzzy paintings. Adi Robertson, The Verge, "System Shock 2 helped define survival horror — but it’s still in a league of its own," 11 Aug. 2019 Once the transmitter was implanted, the wound was closed up nice and tidy using sterile surgical threads. Matt Williams, ExpressNews.com, "Research study following bass that go beep," 19 Dec. 2019 The fruit flies The sterile fly technique is good for more than protecting us against screwworms. Jason Bittel, National Geographic, "Why the government breeds and releases billions of flies a year," 11 Dec. 2019 Surgeons are used to working in sterile rooms with drab walls and lots of equipment. BostonGlobe.com, "Also on display: a Popeye the Sailor figurine, and a Cookie Monster doll. These are reminders to stay grounded.," 9 Dec. 2019 And recent trends in office design are meant to encourage more sociability, with open floor plans and common areas that feel more like comfortable living rooms than sterile workspaces. Brianna Holt, Quartz at Work, "Can friendships between men and women at work promote gender equality?," 25 Nov. 2019 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

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about sterile

Time Traveler for sterile

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for sterile

Last Updated

9 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Sterile.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sterility. Accessed 19 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for sterile

sterile

adjective
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

sterile

adjective
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

sterile

adjective
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

Keep scrolling for more

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).

WORD OF THE DAY

to insert between existing elements

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Eponym Quiz

  • rubens painting
  • Which is the best synonym of bowdlerize?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Syn City

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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