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Sterilization vs. Sterilisation: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 3, 2023
Sterilization and sterilisation have the same meaning but vary in spelling between American English (sterilization) and British English (sterilisation).

Key Differences

Sterilization is the American English spelling for the process of making something free from bacteria or other living microorganisms. Sterilisation is the British English variant of the same term. Both words reflect regional spelling preferences but convey the same concept in medical and biological contexts.
The term sterilization is often used in American publications, adhering to the spelling norms of the United States. In contrast, sterilisation is favored in British, Australian, and other Commonwealth countries' texts, in line with their orthographic standards. Each term appears in literature and documentation according to the regional language conventions of the author or publisher.
In scientific discourse, regardless of the spelling, sterilization or sterilisation refers to the elimination of all forms of life and other biological agents from a particular space, surface, equipment, or medium. The distinction in spelling does not impact the technical meaning or application of the term in scientific studies or healthcare practices.
When discussing policies or international standards, the term sterilization might be used by American organizations, while sterilisation would appear in documents from British-based institutions. The World Health Organization, for instance, may use sterilisation as it follows British English practices in its publications.
Professional communication about medical procedures or cleanliness protocols will use sterilization or sterilisation based on the preferred English variant of the country or region. While the spellings differ, healthcare professionals across the world understand both as they refer to the same process of decontamination.

Comparison Chart


'z' is used instead of 's'
's' is used instead of 'z'


Identical pronunciation
Identical pronunciation


Preferred in the US and Canada
Preferred in the UK and Commonwealth

Dictionary Listings

Listed in American dictionaries
Listed in British dictionaries

International Organizations

Often adapted to 'sterilization' in US-based organizations
Often adapted to 'sterilisation' in UK-based organizations

Sterilization and Sterilisation Definitions


The process of making something free from bacteria.
The hospital uses high-pressure steam for the sterilization of surgical instruments.


The technique of treating something to destroy bacteria.
Water purification systems use various forms of sterilisation to ensure drinking water is safe.


The act of destroying all forms of life, especially microorganisms, by heat or chemical means.
Sterilization of the laboratory space is mandatory after the experiments are conducted.


The act of making an object free of all microorganisms.
Autoclaves are used for the sterilisation of medical tools in clinics.


A procedure to permanently prevent reproduction in an organism.
After the sterilization procedure, the cat was no longer able to have kittens.


A medical procedure to render an animal infertile.
The veterinarian recommended the sterilisation of our dog to prevent future health issues.


The process of removing all microorganisms from a surface or liquid.
The bottles went through sterilization before being filled with the vaccine.


In economics, the action by a central bank to reduce the impact of foreign exchange interventions on the money supply.
The government opted for sterilisation tactics to maintain monetary stability during the trade surplus.


In finance, the act of a central bank preventing the influence of its domestic actions on the money supply.
The central bank undertook sterilization to offset the inflationary effect of its currency intervention.


The process used to achieve an aseptic state.
Sterilisation in the pharmaceutical industry is critical to ensure product safety.


To make free from live bacteria or other microorganisms.


(British) sterilization


To eliminate the ability of a person or animal to produce offspring, as by altering or removing the reproductive organs.


The act of making an organism barren or infertile (unable to reproduce)


The procedure of making some object free of live bacteria or other microorganisms (usually by heat or chemical means)


Does sterilisation ensure that an object is completely devoid of life?

Yes, sterilisation aims to remove all forms of life and biological agents.

Are the outcomes of sterilization and sterilisation identical?

Yes, the outcomes are identical; both achieve a state of being free from microorganisms.

Is sterilization only related to medical procedures?

No, it applies to any process that eliminates all microorganisms from an object or area.

Can the terms sterilization and sterilisation be used interchangeably?

Yes, but the choice of term typically depends on the regional spelling convention.

In scientific research, which term is more prevalent, sterilization or sterilisation?

The term used depends on the country where the research is published or conducted.

Do American companies use sterilisation?

No, American companies typically use the spelling "sterilization."

Do British companies use sterilization?

No, British companies typically use the spelling "sterilisation."

Does sterilization refer to a financial process as well?

Yes, sterilization can also refer to a central bank's action to neutralize the effect of currency intervention on the money supply.

Is sterilization used for both genders in medical procedures?

Yes, sterilization procedures can be applied to both male and female organisms.

Are sterilization and sterilisation the same thing?

Yes, they are the same process, spelled differently in American and British English.

Is the pronunciation of sterilization and sterilisation different?

No, both are pronounced the same way despite the spelling difference.

Can sterilisation be a personal choice regarding birth control?

Yes, sterilisation can be a personal choice for permanent birth control.

Is sterilisation used in economics too?

Yes, sterilisation can refer to economic actions similar to those described by sterilization.

Are the tools for sterilisation specific to one region?

No, the tools and methods for sterilisation are globally standardized.

Does the context of use change the meaning of sterilization or sterilisation?

No, the context does not change the meaning; both refer to the same processes.

Will the spelling of sterilization change to sterilisation in American English?

No, American English is likely to continue using "sterilization" as the preferred spelling.

Can the word sterilization be found in British dictionaries?

Yes, but it may be noted as the American English spelling.

Can the word sterilisation be found in American dictionaries?

Yes, but it may be noted as the British English spelling.

Does sterilization affect the validity of a medical study if used in British English?

No, the term sterilization does not affect the scientific validity of a study.

Are the methods of sterilization different in America compared to where sterilisation is used?

No, the methods are generally the same; only the spelling differs.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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