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[ster-il or, esp. British, -ahyl] /ˈstɛr ɪl or, esp. British, -aɪl/
free from living germs or microorganisms; aseptic:
sterile surgical instruments.
incapable of producing offspring; not producing offspring.
barren; not producing vegetation:
sterile soil.
  1. noting a plant in which reproductive structures fail to develop.
  2. bearing no stamens or pistils.
not productive of results, ideas, etc.; fruitless.
Origin of sterile
1545-55; < Latin sterilis unfruitful
Related forms
sterilely, adverb
[stuh-ril-i-tee] /stəˈrɪl ɪ ti/ (Show IPA),
sterileness, noun
antisterility, adjective
half-sterile, adjective
nonsterile, adjective
nonsterilely, adverb
nonsterility, noun
unsterile, adjective
Can be confused
impetus, impotence, sterility.
impotence, sterility, sterilized.
2. infecund, unfruitful.
2, 3. fertile. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for sterile
  • Then, collect a sample of urine in a clean or sterile container.
  • Your doctor may give you a special clean-catch kit that contains a cleansing solution and sterile wipes.
  • Then he slips on a sterile gown and gloves and steps into the elderly.
  • Some can be polluted and alive, others spotless and sterile.
  • Hybrids that aren't sterile may have the opportunity to become a full-blown new species.
  • Naturally occurring hybrids can also make sterile fruit.
  • Be sure to fill them with a rich, sterile potting mix.
  • Until recently, scientists believed that healthy lungs were sterile.
  • People are already getting sick from being too sterile.
  • sterile fronds are erect, up more add to my plant list.
British Dictionary definitions for sterile


unable to produce offspring; infertile
free from living, esp pathogenic, microorganisms; aseptic
(of plants or their parts) not producing or bearing seeds, fruit, spores, stamens, or pistils
lacking inspiration or vitality; fruitless
(economics, US) (of gold) not being used to support credit creation or an increased money supply
Derived Forms
sterilely, adverb
sterility (stɛˈrɪlɪtɪ) noun
Word Origin
C16: from Latin sterilis
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
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Word Origin and History for sterile

early 15c., "barren" (implied in sterility), from Middle French stérile "not producing fruit," from Latin sterilis "barren, unproductive," from PIE *ster- "sterile, barren" originally "stiff, rigid" (cf. Greek steresthai "be deprived of," steira "sterile," stereos "firm, solid, stiff, hard;" Sanskrit starih "a barren cow;" Old Church Slavonic sterica "a barren cow;" Gothic stairo "barren;" Old Norse stirtla "a barren cow"). See torpor. Originally in English with reference to soil; of females, from 1530s. The sense of "sterilized" is first recorded 1877.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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sterile in Medicine

sterile ster·ile (stěr'əl, -īl')

  1. Not producing or incapable of producing offspring.

  2. Free from all live bacteria or other microorganisms and their spores.

ster'ile·ness or ste·ril'i·ty (stə-rĭl'ĭ-tē) n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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sterile in Science
  (stěr'əl, stěr'īl')   
  1. Not able to produce offspring, seeds, or fruit; unable to reproduce.

  2. Free from disease-causing microorganisms.

sterility noun (stə-rĭl'ĭ-tē)
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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