General English

  • verb to make something dirty by touching it or by adding something to it.


  • verb to make something impure by touching it or by adding something, especially something harmful, to it



  • verb to infect or pollute (e.g. through the use of biological or chemical weapons)

Origin & History of “contaminate”

Contaminate appears to come from the same ultimate source as contact, a base *tag- ‘touch’, which produced the Latin verb tangere ‘touch’ (whence English tactile, tangent, and tangible). It seems also to have formed the basis of a compound Latin noun *contagmen ‘contact, pollution’, which became altered to contāmen. From this was derived the verb contamināre, whose past participle gave English contaminate.