ster·​il·​ize | \ ˈster-ə-ˌlīz How to pronounce sterilize (audio) \
sterilized; sterilizing

Definition of sterilize

transitive verb

: to make sterile: such as
a : to cause (land) to become unfruitful
b(1) : to deprive of the power of reproducing surgically sterilize cats and dogs
(2) : to make incapable of germination
c : to make powerless or useless usually by restraining from a normal function, relation, or participation
d : to free from living microorganisms

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Other Words from sterilize

sterilization \ ˌster-​ə-​lə-​ˈzā-​shən How to pronounce sterilization (audio) \ noun
sterilizer \ ˈster-​ə-​ˌlī-​zər How to pronounce sterilizer (audio) \ noun

Examples of sterilize in a Sentence

The organization encourages people to sterilize their cats and dogs.
Recent Examples on the Web An Indiana hospital says more than 1,000 patients may have been exposed to severe infectious diseases after the hospital learned one of its technicians did not properly sterilize surgical tools. Julie Mazziotta,, "Indiana Hospital Says Over 1,000 Patients May Have Been Infected by Improperly Sterilized Tools," 21 Nov. 2019 Clearly, there's a risk attached to these self-care techniques, but if you're still set on getting a dip powder manicure, try to bring your own powder and make sure your nail salon sterilizes all of their equipment before use. Leah Groth,, "This Woman's Dip Powder Manicure Resulted in an Infection—Here's How That Can Happen," 18 Nov. 2019 After she was born, village authorities threatened to sterilize her mother, who wanted to try again for a boy, but instead struck a compromise. Kyle Smith, National Review, "China’s Holocaust of Children," 13 Nov. 2019 Hospitals could soon face shortages of critical surgical tools because several plants that sterilize the equipment have been shut down, government health officials warn. CBS News, "Hospitals could face shortage of critical surgical tools, FDA warns," 28 Oct. 2019 Georgia Covington: The city has asked a company that sterilizes medical devices to temporarily stop work over air quality tests that show elevated levels of a carcinogen that leaked from the facility last month. USA TODAY, "Rare yellow cardinal sighted, escaped goat caught, fossilized bear skull found: News from around our 50 states," 18 Oct. 2019 Abuses had continued into the nineteen-seventies, when thousands of women—including some who were receiving public assistance in North Carolina and others who were incarcerated in California—were involuntarily sterilized. Alexis Okeowo, The New Yorker, "Fighting for Abortion Access in the South," 7 Oct. 2019 All other procedures, except dentistry, which sterilizes its equipment at an alternative location, would be canceled. Jack Dolan, Los Angeles Times, "Mold discovery halts elective surgeries at L.A. County-USC Medical Center," 26 Sep. 2019 Perhaps the best strategy for closing down disreputable zoos and tiger farms, suggested Mr. Wiek and Mr. Redford, would be to sterilize the inbred and mixed-breed tigers. Richard C. Paddock, New York Times, "Thailand Shuttered a Notorious Tiger Zoo, but the Problem Has Only Gotten Worse," 23 Sep. 2019

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

1695, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for sterilize

Time Traveler

The first known use of sterilize was in 1695

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Statistics for sterilize

Last Updated

28 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Sterilize.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 7 December 2019.

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More Definitions for sterilize


How to pronounce sterilize (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of sterilize

: to clean (something) by destroying germs or bacteria
: to make (someone or something) unable to produce children, young animals, etc.


ster·​il·​ize | \ ˈster-ə-ˌlīz How to pronounce sterilize (audio) \
sterilized; sterilizing

Kids Definition of sterilize

: to make sterile and especially free from germs


transitive verb
variants: also British sterilise \ ˈster-​ə-​ˌlīz How to pronounce sterilise (audio) \
sterilized also British sterilised; sterilizing also British sterilising

Medical Definition of sterilize

: to make sterile:
a : to deprive of the power of reproducing
b : to free from living microorganisms (as by the use of physical or chemical agents) sterilize a surgical instrument

Other Words from sterilize

sterilization \ ˌster-​ə-​lə-​ˈzā-​shən How to pronounce sterilization (audio) \ also British sterilisation \ -​ˌlī-​ˈ How to pronounce sterilisation (audio) \ noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on sterilize

Spanish Central: Translation of sterilize

Nglish: Translation of sterilize for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sterilize for Arabic Speakers

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