Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for March 3, 2021 is:

contaminate • kun-TAM-uh-nayt  • verb

1 a : to soil, stain, corrupt, or infect by contact or association

b : to make inferior or impure by admixture 

2 : to make unfit for use by the introduction of unwholesome or undesirable elements


“Marin Audubon Society president Barbara Salzman said she plans to review the city’s environmental report, but expressed concern about the potential for tank leakage to contaminate groundwater.” — Will Houston, The Marin Independent Journal (Marin County, California), 28 Jan. 2021

“As to any recreation with other children of my age, I had very little of that; for the gloomy theology of the Murdstones made all children out to be a swarm of little vipers …, and held that they contaminated one another.” — Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, 1849-1850

Did you know?

Contaminate, taint, pollute, and defile mean to make impure or unclean. Contaminate implies intrusion of or contact with dirt or foulness from an outside source (logically enough, it derives from the Latin word tangere, meaning “to touch”). Taint stresses a loss of purity or cleanliness that follows contact (“tainted meat”). Pollute, sometimes interchangeable with contaminate, may imply that the process which begins with contamination is complete and that what was pure or clean has been made foul, poisoned, or filthy (“the polluted waters of the river”). Defile implies befouling of what could or should have been kept clean and pure or held sacred, and commonly suggests violation or desecration (“vandals defiled the mausoleum”).

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