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[ster-uh-lahyz] /ˈstɛr əˌlaɪz/
verb (used with object), sterilized, sterilizing.
to destroy microorganisms in or on, usually by bringing to a high temperature with steam, dry heat, or boiling liquid.
to destroy the ability of (a person or animal) to reproduce by removing the sex organs or inhibiting their functions.
to make (land) barren or unproductive.
Informal. to delete or remove anything comprising or damaging from:
to sterilize a government document before releasing it to the press.
Informal. to isolate or completely protect from unwanted, unauthorized, or unwholesome activities, attitudes, influences, etc.:
You can't sterilize children against violence.
Also, especially British, sterilise.
Origin of sterilize
First recorded in 1685-95; sterile + -ize
Related forms
sterilizable, adjective
sterilizability, noun
sterilizer, noun
presterilize, verb (used with object), presterilized, presterilizing.
resterilize, verb (used with object), resterilized, resterilizing.
self-sterilized, adjective
unsterilized, adjective
Can be confused
impotence, sterility, sterilized. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for sterilise
Historical Examples
  • Fill into flasks and sterilise, etc., as for previous solution.

  • Plug the tube and sterilise in the steamer in the usual manner.

  • Could not she nip the first in the bud, and sterilise the rest?

    When Ghost Meets Ghost

    William Frend De Morgan
  • And so we have this day to hunt out all his lairs and sterilise them.

    Dracula Bram Stoker
  • Already all of his lairs but one be sterilise as for him; and before the sunset this shall be so.

    Dracula Bram Stoker
  • He adds that Thackeray expressed a wish, which he allowed Cruikshank to sterilise, to print the ballad with illustrations.

    George Cruikshank W. H. Chesson
  • The drinking water was unpalatable, being heavily chlorinated to sterilise it.

  • We must sterilise this earth, so sacred of holy memories, that he has brought from a far distant land for such fell use.

    Dracula Bram Stoker
  • With their potential existence indeed, since over-strenuous pursuits may sterilise women absolutely as regards male offspring.

    Feminism and Sex-Extinction

    Arabella Kenealy
  • This nut should be immersed in boiling water for a few minutes previous to screwing on, in order to sterilise it.

British Dictionary definitions for sterilise


(transitive) to render sterile; make infertile or barren
Derived Forms
sterilizable, sterilisable, adjective
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 sterilise



"destroy the fertility of," 1690s (in reference to soil), from sterile + -ize; of living things from 1828. Meaning "render free of microorganisms" is from 1878. Related: Sterilized; sterilizing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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sterilise in Medicine

sterilize ster·il·ize (stěr'ə-līz')
v. ster·il·ized, ster·il·iz·ing, ster·il·iz·es

  1. To make free from live bacteria or other microorganisms.

  2. To deprive a person or an animal of the ability to produce offspring, as by removing the reproductive organs.

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