ster·ile (stĕrəl, -īl′)
a. Not producing or incapable of producing offspring.
b. Not producing or incapable of producing seed, fruit, spores, or other reproductive structures. Used of plants or their parts.
2. Producing little or no vegetation; unfruitful: sterile land.
3. Free from live bacteria or other microorganisms: a sterile operating area; sterile instruments.
4. Lacking imagination, creativity, or vitality.
5. Lacking the power to function; not productive or effective; fruitless: a sterile discussion.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin sterilis.]
sterile·ness, ste·rili·ty (stə-rĭlĭ-tē) n.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.