• fomite
  • audio pronunciation
  • \FOH-myte\
  • DEFINITION

noun

: an object (as a dish or an article of clothing) that may be contaminated with infectious organisms and serve in their transmission
  • EXAMPLES

"Through a trail of infection left on fomites like credit cards, casino chips, phones, files and airport bar peanuts—feeling paranoid yet?—she starts a new plague that begins in Asia and the Midwest and soon spreads throughout the globe." — From a film review by Kathi Maio in Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2012

"Smooth objects, like tongs, make better fomites than porous ones, like dollar bills, because infectious agents protrude from their surfaces and can be detached more easily." — From an article by David Owen in The New Yorker, March 4, 2013

  • 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."

Test Your Memory: What is the meaning of "orgulous," our Word of the Day from August 8? The answer is …

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