sterile vs. infertile

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Daffodil100, Dec 8, 2010.

  1. Daffodil100

    Daffodil100 Senior Member


    Could someone tell me what the difference between 'infertile' and 'sterile'? I looked up the dictionary, but found them almost same.

    Thank you!
  2. shenno Member

    English - US
    "Infertile" means that reproduction is difficult, but possible. "Sterile" means it is impossible.
  3. Renaissance man Senior Member

    Shenno, that's a definition of the word that may not be universally recognized. I think most dictionaries would list them as more or less exact synonyms.

    Of course, sterile can also mean clinically clean, devoid of particles, as in "a sterile hospital environment".
  4. shenno Member

    English - US
    True, but I assumed Daffodil was looking for a technical distinction.

    I've also heard "infertile" applied to women vs "sterile" to men, though I don't know about that distinction.
  5. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
  6. Daffodil100

    Daffodil100 Senior Member

  7. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    Since we have noted in this thread a nuance or two that I wasn't aware of, I will "tweak" this one for completeness! In a microbiology world, sterile means "free of infectious particles" : I can test a dose of a drug for "sterility" and it is sterile if there are no viable organisms present. Clean rooms can be "particle-free" or "sterile" often likely to be both.

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