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

transitive verb

: to make (something or someone) sterile: such as
: to free from all viable microorganisms (as by the use of steam or dry heat)
sterilize surgical instruments in an autoclave
: to deprive of the power of reproducing through surgery
sterilize cats and dogs
: to make incapable of germination
studied the effects of sterilizing wheat florets
: to cause (land) to become unfruitful
There, 1,100-degree pyroclastic flows had sterilized the land.Christine Colasurdo

Examples of sterilize in a Sentence

The organization encourages people to sterilize their cats and dogs.
Recent Examples on the Web All bottle components are top rack dishwasher-safe and can be sterilized either by electric or microwave methods. Dorian Smith-Garcia, Parents, 16 May 2024 The facility also did not have an autoclave—a pressurized oven—for sterilizing equipment. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, 25 Apr. 2024 The rule targets ethylene oxide, used for sterilizing medical devices, and chloroprene, used to make rubber in footwear, plus four other chemicals. Peter Weber, theweek, 10 Apr. 2024 Tens of thousands of Uighur men and women have been sterilized by the government. Kevin Rennie, Hartford Courant, 23 Mar. 2024 See all Example Sentences for sterilize 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sterilize.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1676, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of sterilize was in 1676

Dictionary Entries Near sterilize

Cite this Entry

“Sterilize.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


ster·​il·​ize ˈster-ə-ˌlīz How to pronounce sterilize (audio)
sterilized; sterilizing
: to make sterile: as
: to deprive of the power of reproduction
had their cat sterilized
: to free of microscopic living things and especially germs (as bacteria)
sterilize the dental instruments
sterilization noun

Medical Definition


transitive verb
variants also British sterilise
sterilized also British sterilised; sterilizing also British sterilising
: to make sterile:
: to deprive of the power of reproducing
: to free from living microorganisms (as by the use of physical or chemical agents)
sterilize a surgical instrument
sterilization noun
also British sterilisation
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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