early 15c., "infect with a disease, defile," from Latin contaminatus, past participle of contaminare "to defile, to corrupt, to deteriorate by mingling," originally "to bring into contact," from contamen "contact; pollution," from assimilated form of com "with, together" (see con-) + *tag-, base of tangere "to touch" (from PIE root *tag- "to touch, handle"). Related: Contaminant (1934).
late 14c., polluten, "to defile, violate the sanctity of, render ceremonially unclean," a back formation from pollution, or else from Latin pollutus, past participle of polluere "to defile, pollute, contaminate." Related: Polluted; polluting. Meaning "make physically foul" is from 1540s; specific sense "contaminate the environment" emerged by 1860, but was not yet in the 1895 Century Dictionary.
1570s, "to corrupt, contaminate," also "to touch, tinge, imbue slightly" (1590s), from Middle English teynten "to convict, prove guilty" (late 14c.), which is partly from Old French ataint, past participle of ataindre "to touch upon, seize" (see attainder). It also is from Anglo-French teinter "to color, dye" (early 15c.), from Old French teint (12c.), past participle of teindre "to dye, color," from Latin tingere (see tincture). Related: Tainted; tainting.
mid-14c., pollucioun, "discharge of semen other than during sex," later, "desecration, profanation, defilement, legal or ceremonial uncleanness" (late 14c.), from Late Latin pollutionem (nominative pollutio) "defilement," noun of action from past-participle stem of Latin polluere "to soil, defile, contaminate," probably from *por- "before" (a variation of pro "before, for;" see pro-) + -luere "smear," from PIE root *leu- "dirt; make dirty" (see lutose). Sense of "contamination of the environment" is recorded from c. 1860, but not common until c. 1955.
mid-14c., "deprave morally, pervert from good to bad;" late 14c., "contaminate, impair the purity of; seduce or violate (a woman); debase or render impure (a language) by alterations or innovations; influence by a bribe or other wrong motive," from Latin corruptus, past participle of corrumpere "to destroy; spoil," figuratively "corrupt, seduce, bribe" (see corrupt (adj.)).
Intransitive sense of "putrefy, change from a sound to a putrid state" is from late 14c. Related: Corrupted; corrupting. In Middle English also corrumpen (mid-14c., along with corrumpcioun), from Old French corompre, from Latin corumpere.