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[puh-loot] /pəˈlut/
verb (used with object), polluted, polluting.
to make foul or unclean, especially with harmful chemical or waste products; dirty:
to pollute the air with smoke.
to make morally unclean; defile.
to render ceremonially impure; desecrate:
to pollute a house of worship.
Informal. to render less effective or efficient:
The use of inferior equipment has polluted the company's service.
Origin of pollute
1325-75; Middle English polute < Latin pollūtus past participle of polluere to soil, defile, equivalent to pol-, assimilated variant of por- (see pollicitation; here marking the action as complete) + -lū- base of -luere (akin to lutum mud, dirt, lustrum muddy place) + -tus past participle suffix
Related forms
polluter, noun
pollutive, adjective
nonpolluting, adjective
unpolluting, adjective
1. soil, befoul. 2. taint, contaminate, vitiate, corrupt, debase, deprave.
1, 2. purify. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for pollute
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Then, recovering himself, he said angrily, "pollute not my Daniel with thy touch."

  • Stained and despised by the world, as I am, I will not pollute this sanctuary!

    The Home Fredrika Bremer
  • What miserable scruples to torment, blind, and pollute the soul!

    Robert Orange John Oliver Hobbes
  • And now must you pollute the name of my mother, as you polluted her life?

  • Factories may not pollute streams that furnish drinking water.

    Civics and Health William H. Allen
  • pollute is used chiefly of liquids; as, water polluted with sewage.

    English Synonyms and Antonyms James Champlin Fernald
British Dictionary definitions for pollute


verb (transitive)
to contaminate, as with poisonous or harmful substances
to make morally corrupt or impure; sully
to desecrate or defile
Derived Forms
polluter, noun
Word Origin
C14 polute, from Latin polluere to defile
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for pollute

late 14c., "to defile," a back formation from pollution, or else from Latin pollutus, past participle of polluere "to defile, pollute, contaminate." Related: Polluted; polluting. Meaning "make physically foul" is from 1540s; specific sense "contaminate the environment" emerged from late 19c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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pollute in Medicine

pollute pol·lute (pə-lōōt')
v. pol·lut·ed, pol·lut·ing, pol·lutes

  1. To make unfit for or harmful to living things, especially by the addition of waste matter; contaminate.

  2. To make less suitable for an activity, especially by the introduction of unwanted factors.

pol·lut'er n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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