the act of polluting or the state of being polluted.
the introduction of harmful substances or products into the environment: air pollution.

1350–1400; Middle English pollucioun (< Old French) < Late Latin pollūtiōn-, stem of pollūtiō defilement; see pollute, -ion

self-pollution, noun
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World English Dictionary
pollution (pəˈluːʃən)
1.  the act of polluting or the state of being polluted
2.  harmful or poisonous substances introduced into an environment

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Word Origin & History

c.1340, "discharge of semen other than during sex," later, "desecration, defilement" (late 14c.), from L.L. pollutionem (nom. pollutio) "defilement," from L. polluere "to soil, defile, contaminate," from por- "before" + -luere "smear," related to lutum "mud," and to lues "filth" (cf. Gk. lyma "filth,
dirt, disgrace," lymax "rubbish, refuse," O.Ir. loth "mud, dirt," Lith. lutynas "pool, puddle"). Sense of "contamination of the environment" first recorded c.1860, but not common until c.1955. Pollute (v.) is attested from c.1380 in sense "defile," from L. pollutus, pp. of polluere. Meaning "contaminate the environment" first recorded 1954. Pollutant is from 1892.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

pollution pol·lu·tion (pə-lōō'shən)

  1. The act or process of polluting or the state of being polluted, especially the contamination of soil, water, or the atmosphere by the discharge of harmful substances.

  2. A pollutant or a group of pollutants.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
pollution   (pə-l'shən)  Pronunciation Key 
The contamination of air, water, or soil by substances that are harmful to living organisms. Pollution can occur naturally, for example through volcanic eruptions, or as the result of human activities, such as the spilling of oil or disposal of industrial waste. ◇ Light from cities and towns at night that interferes with astronomical observations is known as light pollution. It can also disturb natural rhythms of growth in plants and other organisms. ◇ Continuous noise that is loud enough to be annoying or physically harmful is known as noise pollution. ◇ Heat from hot water that is discharged from a factory into a river or lake, where it can kill or endanger aquatic life, is known as thermal pollution.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Britannica


the addition of any substance or form of energy (e.g., heat, sound, radioactivity) to the environment at a rate faster than the environment can accommodate it by dispersion, breakdown, recycling, or storage in some harmless form

Learn more about pollution with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
Radioactive contamination may be the one case for which the solution to
  pollution really is dilution.
Wake up and smell the air pollution.
Assessing the status of marine life around the world has gained urgency in this
  era of coastal pollution and alarming overfishing.
There's no light pollution, so the sky is bright with stars.
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