[ ster-uh-lahyz ]
/ ˈstɛr əˌlaɪz /

verb (used with object), ster·i·lized, ster·i·liz·ing.

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.

Nearby words

  1. sterile,
  2. sterile cyst,
  3. sterilely,
  4. sterility,
  5. sterilization,
  6. sterilizer,
  7. sterlet,
  8. sterling,
  9. sterling area,
  10. sterling bloc

Also especially British, ster·i·lise.

Origin of sterilize

First recorded in 1685–95; sterile + -ize

Related forms
Can be confusedimpotence sterility sterilized Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sterilize

British Dictionary definitions for sterilize



/ (ˈstɛrɪˌlaɪz) /


(tr) to render sterile; make infertile or barren
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 sterilize



"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

Medicine definitions for sterilize


[ stĕrə-līz′ ]


To make free from live bacteria or other microorganisms.
To deprive a person or 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.