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free from living germs or microorganisms; aseptic:
sterile surgical instruments.
incapable of producing offspring; not producing offspring.
barren; not producing vegetation:
sterile soil.

noting a plant in which reproductive structures fail to develop.
bearing no stamens or pistils.

not productive of results, ideas, etc.; fruitless.
Contemporary Examples

In reality,” Francis said, “theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity.
Pope Francis Denounces the Vatican Elite’s ‘Spiritual Alzheimer’s’ Barbie Latza Nadeau December 22, 2014

Making peace with your enemies can be pragmatic and lasting; making peace by ignoring their enmity is foolish and sterile.
Open Zion Should Not Mean Open Season on Israel Gil Troy July 11, 2013

She showed her sterile bedroom, complete with home respirators that bubbled in the background.
Animal-Rights Activists Bully Dying Italian Girl Barbie Latza Nadeau December 29, 2013

As long as the subject is single, an orphan, an only child, sterile and impotent.
Brazil’s Rich Ban Biographies Via Arcane Law Mac Margolis November 20, 2013

Doctors and nurses were not sterile brainiacs, but people trying to figure out life while helping other people do the same.
Dr. Oz: ER Was My Other Med School Dr. Mehmet Oz March 11, 2009

Historical Examples

He would lie editing his sterile memories of her into glowing once-upon-a-times.
Gargoyles Ben Hecht

His small farm was sterile, and yielded grudgingly its annual crops.
The Young Miner Horatio Alger, Jr.

The present system merely leads to the transmission of the sterile art of passing examinations.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 10, Slice 1 Various

There was about an acre of land, rocky and sterile, attached to it.
The Young Acrobat of the Great North American Circus Horatio Alger Jr.

sterile flowers composed of shield-shaped scale-like filaments bearing 2–4 anther-cells under the lower margin.
The Manual of the Botany of the Northern United States Asa Gray

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

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.

sterile ster·ile (stěr’əl, -īl’)

Not producing or incapable of producing offspring.

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

ster’ile·ness or ste·ril’i·ty (stə-rĭl’ĭ-tē) n.
(stěr’əl, stěr’īl’)

Not able to produce offspring, seeds, or fruit; unable to reproduce.

Free from disease-causing microorganisms.

sterility noun (stə-rĭl’ĭ-tē)


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