ster·​il·​ize | \ˈster-ə-ˌlīz \
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 \ noun
sterilizer \ ˈster-​ə-​ˌlī-​zər \ noun

Examples of sterilize in a Sentence

The organization encourages people to sterilize their cats and dogs.

Recent Examples on the Web

Certified tattoo and piercing parlors have an autoclave machine, which uses high temperature and steam to sterilize the gun. Elizabeth Denton, Seventeen, "9 Things You Should Know Before Getting Your First Body Piercing," 12 July 2018 Kojima was forcibly sterilized in 1960 after being treated for a mental illness. Mari Yamaguchi,, "3 Japanese seek damages, apology for forced sterilizations," 18 May 2018 Theresia Seible, a Romany woman, gave birth under Nazi supervision and was then sterilized. Erin Blakemore, Washington Post, "Holocaust Museum shows how Nazi theories affected 12 survivors," 1 July 2018 Everything was disposable or thoroughly sterilized. Devon Abelman, Allure, "YouTuber Alissa Ashley Opens Up About Having a Severe Allergic Reaction to Microblading," 9 May 2018 Sikorsky harvested 12 fish, flew them to a private hatchery, and arranged to have the pond sterilized with rotenone, a pesticide dropped from, ironically, two Sikorsky Blackhawks contracted from the National Guard. Brian Irwin,, "Turn-of-the-century sporting camp offers relaxation, fly fishing," 11 July 2018 Last February, when SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket tossed CEO Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster toward Mars, the event precipitated a minor planetary-protection crisis—the car had not been sterilized for an unlikely-but-possible impact with the Red Planet. Leonard David, Scientific American, "As Space Becomes a Busy Place, NASA Bolsters Its Planet-Contamination Police," 3 July 2018 Sarah cleansed my skin (this part was relaxing) and then applied a gentle chemical peel to sterilize my skin. Jillian Ruffo,, "We Tried It: The $650 'Penis Facial' That Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett Swear By," 17 May 2018 To fix the plant’s troubles, Pfizer decided to replace production lines and other technology, particularly huge equipment-sterilizing machines called autoclaves that can take two years to build, install and test. Washington Post, "US hospitals grapple with prolonged injected opioid shortage," 27 June 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

14 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for sterilize

The first known use of sterilize was in 1695

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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 \
sterilized; sterilizing

Kids Definition of sterilize

: to make sterile and especially free from germs


transitive verb
variants: also British sterilise \ ˈster-​ə-​ˌlīz \
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 \ also British sterilisation \ -​ˌlī-​ˈ \ 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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a private place of worship

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