Synonym Chooser

How does the verb pollute contrast with its synonyms?

Some common synonyms of pollute are contaminate, defile, and taint. While all these words mean "to make impure or unclean," pollute, sometimes interchangeable with contaminate, distinctively may imply that the process which begins with contamination is complete and that what was pure or clean has been made foul, poisoned, or filthy.

the polluted waters of the river

When can contaminate be used instead of pollute?

The words contaminate and pollute can be used in similar contexts, but contaminate implies intrusion of or contact with dirt or foulness from an outside source.

water contaminated by industrial wastes

When is defile a more appropriate choice than pollute?

The words defile and pollute are synonyms, but do differ in nuance. Specifically, defile implies befouling of what could or should have been kept clean and pure or held sacred and commonly suggests violation or desecration.

defile a hero's memory with slanderous innuendo

When is it sensible to use taint instead of pollute?

The synonyms taint and pollute are sometimes interchangeable, but taint stresses the loss of purity or cleanliness that follows contamination.

tainted meat
a politician's tainted reputation

Thesaurus Entries Near pollute

Cite this Entry

“Pollute.” Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/pollute. Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

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