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

Based on his findings, Popenoe argued in Journal of Heredity that approximately ten million Americans — then, a tenth of the population — should be sterilized. Audrey Farley, Longreads, "We Still Don’t Know How to Navigate the Cultural Legacy of Eugenics," 20 June 2019 Labs in those days used lots of elaborate liquid chromatography and other equipment that had to be washed and sterilized by hand, so his was an important job. Bulletin Board, Twin Cities, "Sunday Bulletin Board: There’s always something new to find in this ordinary old farmhouse," 16 June 2019 Its main compounds are polyphenols, known as limonoids, and naringenin, which help when killing bacteria in laundry, cleaning carpet spills (that could lead to mold growth!), and for disinfecting and sterilizing spaces. Cate Geiger, Country Living, "How to Get Rid of Black Mold Naturally," 23 May 2019 This model offers everything that the bestselling Duo does, plus settings for making cakes, eggs, and sterilizing. Betty Gold, Good Housekeeping, "The Best Instant Pot Models for You (and Your Budget)," 4 Jan. 2019 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

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

27 Jun 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).


an act or instance of editing or removing

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