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From Latin adulterātus ((adjective) adulterated; of mixed descent; (verb) adulterated, corrupted, defiled, polluted; committed adultery with; (figuratively) counterfeited, falsified)[1] + English -ate (suffix forming adjectives with the sense ‘having the specified thing’, and verbs with the sense ‘acting in the specified manner’). Adulterātus is the perfect passive participle of adulterō (to adulterate, corrupt, defile, pollute; to commit adultery with; (figuratively) to counterfeit, falsify) + -ātus (suffix forming adjectives indicating the possession of a thing or a quality, from nouns); adulterō is derived from ad- (prefix intensifying the action of verbs) + alterō (to alter, change) (from alter (the other) (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *h₂el- (beyond; other) + *-teros (suffix forming contrastive or oppositional adjectives)) + (suffix forming first-conjugation verbs).



adulterate (comparative more adulterate, superlative most adulterate) (archaic, literary)

  1. Corrupted or made impure by being mixed with something else; adulterated. [common in the 16th and 17th c.]
  2. Tending to commit adultery; relating to or being the product of adultery; adulterous. [common in the 16th and 17th c.]

Derived terms[edit]



adulterate (third-person singular simple present adulterates, present participle adulterating, simple past and past participle adulterated)

  1. (transitive) To corrupt, to debase (someone or something).
    Synonym: sophisticate
    • 1692, John Milton, chapter XII, in [Joseph Washington], transl., A Defence of the People of England, []: In Answer to Salmasius’s Defence of the King, [London?: s.n.], →OCLC, page 237:
      For thus, that King violated that Oath which he ought moſt religiouſly to have ſworn to; but that he might not ſeem openly and publickly to violate it, he craftily adulterated and corrupted it; and leaſt he himſelf ſhould be accounted perjur'd, he turn'd the very Oath into a Perjury. [...] And who durſt pervert and adulterate that Law which he thought the only Obſtacle that ſtood in his way, and hindred him from perverting all the reſt of the Laws?
  2. (transitive) To make less valuable or spoil (something) by adding impurities or other substances.
    Synonyms: (obsolete) adulter, debase, sophisticate
    to adulterate coins, drugs, food and drink, etc.
    • 1711 September 19 (Gregorian calendar), [Joseph Addison], “SATURDAY, September 8, 1711”, in The Spectator, number 165; republished in Alexander Chalmers, editor, The Spectator; a New Edition, [], volume II, New York, N.Y.: D[aniel] Appleton & Company, 1853, →OCLC, page 356:
      The present war has so adulterated our tongue with strange words, that it would be impossible for one of our great grandfathers to know what his posterity have been doing, were he to read their exploits in a modern newspaper.
      The spelling has been modernized.
  3. (transitive, archaic) To commit adultery with (someone).
    Synonym: (obsolete) adulter
  4. (transitive, archaic) To defile (someone) by adultery.
    • 1649, J[ohn] M[ilton], The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates: [], London: [] Matthew Simmons, [], published 1649 (2nd printing), →OCLC, page 13:
      Yet ſome would perſwade us, that this abſurd opinion was King Davids; becauſe in the 51st Pſalm he cries out to God, Againſt thee onely have I ſinn'd; as if David had imagin'd that to murder Uriah and adulterate his Wife, had bin no ſinn againſt his Neighbour, when as that Law of Moſes was to the King expreſly, Deut. 17. not to think ſo highly of himſelf above his Brethren.
  5. (intransitive, also figuratively, archaic) To commit adultery.
    • c. 1596 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Life and Death of King Iohn”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act II, scene ii], page 8, column 2:
      But Fortune, oh, / She is corrupted, chang’d, and wonne from thee, / Sh’adulterates hourely with thine Vnckle Iohn, / And with her golden hand hath pluckt on France / To tread downe faire reſpect of Soueraigntie, / And made his Maieſtie the bawd to theirs.


Related terms[edit]



  1. ^ adulterate, adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2011; “adulterate, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2011; “adulterate, v. and adj.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]


Etymology 1[edit]



  1. inflection of adulterare:
    1. second-person plural present indicative
    2. second-person plural imperative

Etymology 2[edit]


adulterate f pl

  1. feminine plural of adulterato




  1. second-person plural present active imperative of adulterō




  1. second-person singular voseo imperative of adulterar combined with te