1. free from living germs or microorganisms; aseptic: sterile surgical instruments.
  2. incapable of producing offspring; not producing offspring.
  3. barren; not producing vegetation: sterile soil.
  4. Botany.
    1. noting a plant in which reproductive structures fail to develop.
    2. bearing no stamens or pistils.
  5. not productive of results, ideas, etc.; fruitless.


  1. unable to produce offspring; infertile
  2. free from living, esp pathogenic, microorganisms; aseptic
  3. (of plants or their parts) not producing or bearing seeds, fruit, spores, stamens, or pistils
  4. lacking inspiration or vitality; fruitless
  5. economics, US (of gold) not being used to support credit creation or an increased money supply

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.


  1. Not producing or incapable of producing offspring.
  2. Free from all live bacteria or other microorganisms and their spores.

  1. Not able to produce offspring, seeds, or fruit; unable to reproduce.
  2. Free from disease-causing microorganisms.

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