Definition of sterile in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈstɛrʌɪl/


1Not able to produce children or young: the disease had made him sterile
More example sentences
  • As the experiment was designed to assess the effect of mating on female egg fertility, it was important to remove sterile females from the data set.
  • The ratter kills young and old, male and female, pregnant and sterile with the same compassionless urge.
  • Those adults that do survive are extremely sickly; the females were invariably sterile and the males bred very poorly.
technical infecund
archaic barren
1.1(Of a plant) not able to produce fruit or seeds: the peppermints are vigorous sterile hybrids
More example sentences
  • Fruiting plants are immediately recognizable by the unique bright blue color of their drupes, but sterile shrubs are very nondescript and easily overlooked.
  • Vegetative propagation is used because, except for a few recently discovered fertile clones, garlic flowers are sterile and will not produce true seed.
  • In severe cases the flowers are sterile, although lesser affected female flowers may be fertilized to give mantled fruit.
1.2(Of land or soil) too poor in quality to produce crops: vast tracts of sterile desert land
More example sentences
  • Hester remains in Boston, and goes to live on a remote peninsula of the town in an abandoned cottage where the land is too sterile to support a family.
  • The sturdy roots dug deep into unyielding rocks and drew nourishment from the seemingly sterile soil.
  • Unless your soil is actually sterile, which is rare, it is recommended that you use your soil as you find it.
unproductive, infertile, unfruitful, uncultivatable;
arid, dry, barren, lifeless, desert
1.3Lacking in imagination, creativity, or excitement; uninspiring or unproductive: he found the fraternity’s teachings sterile
More example sentences
  • Discussions are sometimes abusive and unpleasant, and often sterile and unproductive, with most people adhering rigidly to their long-entrenched prejudices.
  • It becomes sterile - lacking joy, awe and a sense of God.
  • Personally, I have long ceased listening to either its presentation by the Finance Minister, or the sterile debate that follows.
pointless, profitless, unproductive, unfruitful, fruitless, unrewarding, abortive, unsuccessful, ineffectual, ineffective, worthless, useless, unprofitable, futile, vain, idle
archaic bootless
rare unfructuous
unimaginative, uninspired, uninspiring, unoriginal, derivative, stale, lifeless, musty
2Free from bacteria or other living microorganisms; totally clean: a sterile needle and syringes
More example sentences
  • Open fractures need to be cleaned thoroughly in the sterile environment of the operating room before they're set because the bone's exposure to the air poses a risk of infection.
  • The closure threatens the supply of clean, sterile needles to local intravenous drug users.
  • They also provide sterile syringes and needles, as well as management of overdoses by medical personnel when necessary.
aseptic, sterilized, germ-free, antiseptic, disinfected, uninfected, uncontaminated, unpolluted, pure, clean;
sanitary, hygienic



Example sentences
  • Additional equipment (ie, sternal saw, appropriately sized sternal retractor, vascular tray) is immediately available but remains sterilely packaged ready to be opened if a median stemotomy becomes necessary.
  • After the induction of general anesthesia and sterilely preparing the patient's chest, abdomen and groin, a vertical midline median sternotomy was performed.
  • The surgeon and assistant perform a craniotomy while the scrub person sterilely drapes the surgeon's and assistant's chairs and the microscope.


Late Middle English: from Old French, or from Latin sterilis; related to Greek steira 'barren cow'. sense 2 dates from the late 19th century.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: ster|ile

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