Did You Know?
Disinfectant on your hands keeps us healthier and fomites no longer foment as much disease. Australian newspaper contributor Peter Goers was likely going for alliteration when he paired up "fomite" and "foment," a verb meaning "to promote the growth or development of"-but, whether he realized it or not, the words "fomite" and "foment" are also related. "Fomite" is a back-formation of "fomites," the Latin plural of "fomes," itself a word for tinder. (Much like tinder is a catalyst of fire, a fomite can kindle disease.) "Fomes" is akin to the Latin verb fovēre ("to heat"), an ancestor of "foment."
Origin of fomite
back-formation from fomites, from New Latin, plural of fomit-, fomes, from Latin, kindling wood; akin to Latin fovēre to heat — more at foment
First Known Use: 1803
Medical Definition of fomite
: an object (as a dish, toy, book, doorknob, or clothing) that may be contaminated with infectious organisms and serve in their transmission <the much maligned toilet seat is a remarkably ineffective fomite—M. F. Rein> <what are the most common fomites for rotavirus in day-care settings—Pediatric Report's Child Health Newsletter>
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