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

This kicks me into high gear, sterilizing and de-funkifying everything possible. Joslyn Gray, Redbook, "Don't Judge Me Because...My House Is a Mess," 30 Nov. 2011 After a series of lawsuits, the Fish and Wildlife Service stopped sterilizing coyotes and introducing red wolf pups into wild dens outside of the national refuge. Robbie George, National Geographic, "Rule to Allow Hunting Could Doom Rare Red Wolves," 29 June 2018 Just prior to proceeding with recipe, sterilize jars: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Allegra Ben-amotz, WSJ, "This Ingredient Lights Up a Dish Like No Other," 18 Dec. 2018 Hospitals routinely sterilize tools such as scalpels and scissors, then use them again. Liz Szabo, Washington Post, "Sticker Shock Jolts Oklahoma Patient: $15,076 For Four Tiny Screws," 14 May 2018 After having a major heart attack, the veteran wasn't able to care for the pups, so they were picked up by animal control and held for a total of 20 days before being sterilized and put up for adoption. Alexis Hobbs, Woman's Day, "This Veteran Has the Sweetest Reunion With His Dogs After Being Hospitalized For Months," 21 Dec. 2015 The stainless steel tanks used for fermentation and aging must be cleaned and sterilized at every step of the process, requiring copious quantities of water and chemical cleaning agents. Aleksandra Crapanzano, WSJ, "The Winery That Fits in a Closet," 12 Oct. 2018 Always wash, clean, and sterilize items used in canning according to instructions. Lindsey Murray, Good Housekeeping, "Taco Bell has just issued a warning for its popular salsa con queso.," 25 July 2018 If the hair is above the skin and reachable, sterilize a tweezer (use a cotton ball covered in rubbing alcohol), and pluck the hair. Loni Venti, Teen Vogue, "How To Get Rid of Ingrown Hair: 9 Tips to Heal Your Skin," 5 Oct. 2018

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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Statistics for sterilize

Last Updated

4 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for sterilize

The first known use of sterilize was in 1695

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More Definitions for sterilize



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

Comments on sterilize

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an enemy or opponent

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