verb (used with object), pol·lut·ed, pol·lut·ing.
  1. to make foul or unclean, especially with harmful chemical or waste products; dirty: to pollute the air with smoke.
  2. to make morally unclean; defile.
  3. to render ceremonially impure; desecrate: to pollute a house of worship.
  4. 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 formspol·lut·er, nounpol·lu·tive, adjectivenon·pol·lut·ing, adjectiveun·pol·lut·ing, adjective

Synonyms for pollute

Antonyms for pollute

1, 2. purify.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for polluter

Contemporary Examples of polluter

  • Take the shipping industry—they are just as big a polluter as the airline industry, if not more.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Branson Blasts Off

    Matthew Dakotah

    September 1, 2009

Historical Examples of polluter

  • From all time the polluter of a spring has been held accursed.

  • He fought a difficult fight all his life in a world that ignored him, except when it was denouncing him as a polluter of Society.

British Dictionary definitions for polluter


verb (tr)
  1. to contaminate, as with poisonous or harmful substances
  2. to make morally corrupt or impure; sully
  3. to desecrate or defile
Derived Formspolluter, noun

Word Origin for pollute

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

Word Origin and History for polluter

1540s, "one who renders unclean or impure," agent noun from pollute (v.). Ecological sense from 1958.



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

polluter in Medicine


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