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See more synonyms for sterilize on Thesaurus.com
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

Related Words


Examples from the Web for sterilizer

Historical Examples

  • After this they are taken out of the sterilizer, and are ready for distribution.

    Appletons' Popular Science Monthly, September 1899


  • The nurse gathered up the last of the instruments and threw them in the sterilizer.


    Ruth Sawyer

  • The jars should be immediately placed in the sterilizer after being packed.

    Every Step in Canning

    Grace Viall Gray

  • Steam rose in increased mists as one figure lifted back the lid of a sterilizer and dropped in some gleaming instruments.

  • Consult time table and at the end of the required sterilizing period remove the jars from the sterilizer.

British Dictionary definitions for sterilizer



  1. a person, substance, or device that sterilizes
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  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 sterilizer



"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

sterilizer in Medicine


  1. An apparatus for rendering objects aseptic.
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  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.