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[dis-in-fek-tuh nt] /ˌdɪs ɪnˈfɛk tənt/
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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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples for disinfectants
  • Chlorine is a powerful oxidant and is used in bleaching and disinfectants.
British Dictionary definitions for disinfectants


an agent that destroys or inhibits the activity of microorganisms that cause disease
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for disinfectants



1837, from French désinfectant (1816), noun use of present participle of désinfecter (see disinfect). From 1875 as an adjective.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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disinfectants in Medicine

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 Article for disinfectants


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.

Learn more about disinfectant with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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