• synonyms


verb (used with object), ster·i·lized, ster·i·liz·ing.
  1. to destroy microorganisms in or on, usually by bringing to a high temperature with steam, dry heat, or boiling liquid.
  2. to destroy the ability of (a person or animal) to reproduce by removing the sex organs or inhibiting their functions.
  3. to make (land) barren or unproductive.
  4. Informal. to delete or remove anything comprising or damaging from: to sterilize a government document before releasing it to the press.
  5. Informal. to isolate or completely protect from unwanted, unauthorized, or unwholesome activities, attitudes, influences, etc.: You can't sterilize children against violence.
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Also especially British, ster·i·lise.

Origin of sterilize

First recorded in 1685–95; sterile + -ize
Related formsster·i·liz·a·ble, adjectivester·i·liz·a·bil·i·ty, nounster·i·liz·er, nounpre·ster·i·lize, verb (used with object), pre·ster·i·lized, pre·ster·i·liz·ing.re·ster·i·lize, verb (used with object), re·ster·i·lized, re·ster·i·liz·ing.self-ster·i·lized, adjectiveun·ster·i·lized, adjective
Can be confusedimpotence sterility sterilized
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for sterilise

Historical Examples

  • Fill into flasks and sterilise, etc., as for previous solution.

    The Elements of Bacteriological Technique

    John William Henry Eyre

  • 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

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


    Bram Stoker

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


    Bram Stoker

British Dictionary definitions for sterilise



  1. (tr) to render sterile; make infertile or barren
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Derived Formssterilizable or 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

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

sterilise in Medicine


  1. To make free from live bacteria or other microorganisms.
  2. To deprive a person or animal of the ability to produce offspring, as by removing the reproductive organs.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.