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

Ttttthen having to find someplace to sterilize bottles and keep your milk cold (ok I’m done with that rant lol)! Katherine J. Igoe, Marie Claire, "Hilary Duff Gets Real About Breastfeeding Struggles in Super-Supportive Post to Moms," 8 May 2019 The new classes of insecticides introduced in the past 20 years (e.g. neonicotinoids and fipronil) have been especially damaging because they are used routinely and sterilize the soil, killing everything in it. Jill Kiedaisch, Popular Mechanics, "The Staggering Worldwide Decline of Insects Is a Warning of Ecosystem Collapse," 13 Feb. 2019 Instead, the government is extending a policy of sterilizing the animals and feeding them contraceptives, as well as discouraging the public from providing them food. Alice Fung, The Seattle Times, "In year of the pig, Hong Kong has had enough of wild ones," 6 Feb. 2019 To do this, grab some rubbing alcohol and sterilize the blister and surrounding skin. Macaela Mackenzie, Allure, "A Visual Guide to Identifying First-, Second- and Third-Degree Burns," 6 Aug. 2018 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

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

16 May 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

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


to speak slightingly about or to degrade

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