• (British) IPA: /pəˈl(j)uːʃn̩/


  1. (now, rare) The desecration of something holy or sacred; defilement, profanation. [from 14th c.]
    • 1667, John Milton, Paradise Lost, ch. XII:
      Men who attend the Altar, and should most / Endevor Peace: thir strife pollution brings / Upon the Temple it self […].
    • 1869, Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad:
      [T]he most gallant knights that ever wielded sword wasted their lives away in a struggle to seize it and hold it sacred from infidel pollution.
  2. (now, archaic) The ejaculation of semen outside of sexual intercourse, especially a nocturnal emission. [from 14th c.]
    • 1839, Robley Dunglison, Medical Lexicon, Blanchard, page 492:
      When occasioned by a voluntary act it is called, simply, Pollution or Masturbation (q.v.); when excited, during sleep, by lascivious dreams, it takes the name Noctur'nal pollution, Exoneiro'sis, Oneirog'mos, Oneirog'onos, Gonorrhœ'a dormien'tium, G. oneirog'onos, G. Vera, G. libidino'sa, Proflu'vium Sem'inis, Spermatorrhœ'a, Paronir'ia salax, Night pollution.
  3. Moral or spiritual corruption; impurity, degradation, defilement. [from 15th c.]
    • 1813, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice:
      She condescended to wait on them at Pemberley, in spite of that pollution which its woods had received.
  4. Physical contamination, now especially the contamination of the environment by harmful substances, or by disruptive levels of noise, light etc. [from 18th c.]
    • 2018, Matthew Taylor, The Guardian, 13 July ↗:
      Schools across the country are moving to ban the school run amid growing concern about the devastating impact of air pollution on young people’s health.
    • 2019, George Monbiot, Cars are killing us. Within 10 years, we must phase them out ↗ in the Guardian.
      Pollution now kills three times as many people worldwide as Aids, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
  5. Something that pollutes; a pollutant. [from 17th c.]
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