[ster-il or, esp. British, -ahyl]
  1. free from living germs or microorganisms; aseptic: sterile surgical instruments.
  2. incapable of producing offspring; not producing offspring.
  3. barren; not producing vegetation: sterile soil.
  4. Botany.
    1. noting a plant in which reproductive structures fail to develop.
    2. bearing no stamens or pistils.
  5. not productive of results, ideas, etc.; fruitless.

Origin of sterile

First recorded in 1545–55, sterile is from the Latin word sterilis unfruitful
Related formsster·ile·ly, adverbste·ril·i·ty [stuh-ril-i-tee] /stəˈrɪl ɪ ti/, ster·ile·ness, nounan·ti·ste·ril·i·ty, adjectivehalf-ster·ile, adjectivenon·ster·ile, adjectivenon·ster·ile·ly, adverbnon·ste·ril·i·ty, nounun·ster·ile, adjective
Can be confusedimpetus impotence sterilityimpotence sterility sterilized

Synonyms for sterile

Antonyms for sterile

2, 3. fertile. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for anti-sterility


  1. unable to produce offspring; infertile
  2. free from living, esp pathogenic, microorganisms; aseptic
  3. (of plants or their parts) not producing or bearing seeds, fruit, spores, stamens, or pistils
  4. lacking inspiration or vitality; fruitless
  5. economics, US (of gold) not being used to support credit creation or an increased money supply
Derived Formssterilely, adverbsterility (stɛˈrɪlɪtɪ), noun

Word Origin for sterile

C16: from Latin sterilis
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

Word Origin and History for anti-sterility



early 15c., "barren" (implied in sterility), from Middle French stérile "not producing fruit," from Latin sterilis "barren, unproductive," from PIE *ster- "sterile, barren" originally "stiff, rigid" (cf. Greek steresthai "be deprived of," steira "sterile," stereos "firm, solid, stiff, hard;" Sanskrit starih "a barren cow;" Old Church Slavonic sterica "a barren cow;" Gothic stairo "barren;" Old Norse stirtla "a barren cow"). See torpor. Originally in English with reference to soil; of females, from 1530s. The sense of "sterilized" is first recorded 1877.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

anti-sterility in Medicine


[stĕrəl, -īl′]
  1. Not producing or incapable of producing offspring.
  2. Free from all live bacteria or other microorganisms and their spores.
Related formssterile•ness null n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

anti-sterility in Science


[stĕrəl, stĕrīl′]
  1. Not able to produce offspring, seeds, or fruit; unable to reproduce.
  2. Free from disease-causing microorganisms.
Related formssterility noun (stə-rĭlĭ-tē)
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.