ster·​ile | \ ˈster-əl How to pronounce sterile (audio) , chiefly British -ˌī(-ə)l \

Definition of sterile

1a : failing to bear or incapable of producing fruit or spores
b : failing to produce or incapable of producing offspring a sterile hybrid
c : incapable of germinating sterile spores
d of a flower : neither perfect nor pistillate
2a : unproductive of vegetation a sterile arid region
b : free from living organisms and especially pathogenic microorganisms a sterile syringe
c : lacking in stimulating emotional or intellectual quality : lifeless a sterile work of art

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Other Words from sterile

sterilely \ ˈster-​ə(l)-​lē How to pronounce sterile (audio) , chiefly British  -​ˌī(-​ə)(l)-​lē \ adverb
sterility \ stə-​ˈri-​lə-​tē How to pronounce sterile (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for sterile



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Examples of sterile in a Sentence

a sterile dressing for a wound sterile couples sometimes choose to adopt needy children
Recent Examples on the Web But the lake's native fish species, built to thrive in its frigid and relatively sterile waters, have figured out how to thrive amid all this fresh ecological chaos by feasting on the new intruders. Dan Egan,, 2 Sep. 2021 The bargain black currants at the supermarket, doubtlessly sterile and riddled with vine weevil, are calling my name. Charlotte Mendelson, The New Yorker, 17 Aug. 2021 That was key to the slog through long days, tight deadlines and an Olympics that often felt sterile and joyless. Los Angeles Times, 8 Aug. 2021 News broke midday on Friday that stockholders had approved a deal to sell Tribune Publishing to Alden Global Capital, a particularly sterile and heartless-sounding name, even for a hedge fund. Georgia Garvey,, 24 May 2021 Pharmacists working in a sterile room, free of contamination, needed to assemble the shots in small doses safe enough for children. WSJ, 6 Sep. 2021 Interview rooms are transformed into something more like a living room in a home than the often cold, stark and sterile interview rooms police normally use. Leah Waters, Dallas News, 6 Sep. 2021 But most biologists don't think that's enough because even if flushing ballast tanks with saltwater eliminates 98 or even more than 99% of certain classes of hitchhikers, boats arriving from ports around the globe are far from sterile., 2 Sep. 2021 After a lifetime spent on sterile interstellar ships, the immune systems of Tali and her people have atrophied, forcing them into protective bio-suits. Eirik Gumeny, Wired, 31 Aug. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sterile.' 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 sterile

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for sterile

Middle English steryle, from Latin sterilis; akin to Goth stairo barren animal, Sanskrit starī sterile cow

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Time Traveler for sterile

Time Traveler

The first known use of sterile was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

24 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sterile.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for sterile



English Language Learners Definition of sterile

: not able to produce crops or plants
: not able to produce children, young animals, etc.
: not able to grow or develop


ster·​ile | \ ˈster-əl How to pronounce sterile (audio) \

Kids Definition of sterile

1 : not able to produce fruit, crops, or offspring : not fertile sterile soil
2 : free from living germs a sterile bandage


ster·​ile | \ ˈster-əl, chiefly British -ˌīl \

Medical Definition of sterile

1 : failing to produce or incapable of producing offspring a sterile hybrid — compare infertile
2 : free from living organisms and especially microorganisms a sterile syringe a sterile cyst

Other Words from sterile

sterilely \ -​əl-​(l)ē How to pronounce sterile (audio) \ adverb
sterility \ stə-​ˈril-​ət-​ē How to pronounce sterile (audio) \ noun, plural sterilities

More from Merriam-Webster on sterile

Nglish: Translation of sterile for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sterile for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about sterile


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