1. to make air, water or land too dirty and dangerous for people to use in a safe way
2. to spoil the good character of someone or something
Origin and usage
The word pollute first appeared in English in the late 14th century and likely comes from the Latin word ‘pollutus’ meaning ‘defiled or contaminated’. It gained its usage as a way to describe environmental damage sometime in the late 19th century.
Pollute is a word that typically refers to the act of making the environment unsafe for people or animals. It can also be used to mean doing or saying something to ruin a person’s reputation or to disrupt a situation (“He tried to pollute the partnership by spreading lies about his competition.”)
Though we typically think of the outdoors when it comes to pollution, it’s also possible to pollute the air inside the home. According to the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization that looks at chemicals in consumer products, there are some easy, practical ways to prevent pollution indoors, especially when it comes to home improvement projects.
The Environmental Working Group’s guide suggests making quick changes, like swapping adhesives and paints that contain high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC) for brands that have low or no VOC, using air filters that have a high efficiency rating to prevent the circulation of dangerous gases, buying a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter and considering a mattress made using water-based glue that won’t emit harmful VOC.
“We are in danger of destroying ourselves by our greed and stupidity. We cannot remain looking inwards at ourselves on a small and increasingly polluted and overcrowded planet.”
dirty, damage, spoil
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.