any chemical agent used chiefly on inanimate objects to destroy or inhibit the growth of harmful organisms.
serving as a disinfectant.

1830–40; < French désinfectant, noun use of present participle of désinfecter, Middle French. See disinfect, -ant

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World English Dictionary
disinfectant (ˌdɪsɪnˈfɛktənt)
an agent that destroys or inhibits the activity of microorganisms that cause disease

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

1837 (n.); 1875 (adj.), from Fr. désinfectant (1816), originally prp. of désinfecter (see disinfect).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

disinfectant dis·in·fec·tant (dĭs'ĭn-fěk'tənt)
An agent, such as heat, radiation, or a chemical, that disinfects by destroying, neutralizing, or inhibiting the growth of disease-carrying microorganisms. adj.
Serving to disinfect.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Encyclopedia Britannica


any substance, such as creosote or alcohol, applied to inanimate objects to kill microorganisms. Disinfectants and antiseptics are alike in that both are germicidal, but antiseptics are applied primarily to living tissue. The ideal disinfectant would rapidly destroy bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoans, would not corrode surgical instruments, and would not destroy or discolour materials on which it is used.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
They also act as a disinfectant, removing disease-ridden plants and harmful
  insects from a forest ecosystem.
He got a staph infection that brought him to the hospital, and anyone visiting
  his room had to scrub first with disinfectant.
Under the smell of baking, there's some disinfectant, some bleach.
It is said in politics that sunlight is the best disinfectant.
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