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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.
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 sterility
  • But the study's authors say that following reprocessing, there's no difference in safety and sterility.
  • Its societies are committing suicide by sterility, which is a tragedy.
  • The hot crucible of the psychiatrist's office is far removed from the cool sterility of research labs and academic offices.
  • The aim of this study is to investigate sterility of ethyl-chloride topical anesthetic spray when used prior to an injection.
British Dictionary definitions for sterility


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 sterility



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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sterility 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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sterility 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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Encyclopedia Article for sterility


the inability of a couple to conceive and reproduce. Infertility is defined as the failure to conceive after one year of regular intercourse without contraception or the inability of a woman to carry a pregnancy to a live birth. Infertility can affect either the male or the female and can result from a number of causes. About 1 in every 10 couples is infertile, or somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of the population

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