Definition of canker
1a (1) : an erosive or spreading sore (2) : an area of necrosis in a plant; also : a plant disease characterized by cankers Citrus canker is caused by bacteria.b : any of various disorders of animals marked by chronic inflammatory changes
2 archaic : a caterpillar destructive to plants
3 chiefly dialectal : rust 1
4 : a source of corruption or debasement suspicion is a canker that … will consume and waste all love — R. Sibbes
5 chiefly dialectal : dog rose
cankerousplay \ˈkaŋ-k(ə-)rəs\ adjective
canker was our Word of the Day on 05/22/2013. Hear the podcast!
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP
Recent Examples of canker from the Web
Will legislators finally pay homeowners for citrus trees cut down during canker scare?
Citrus canker, spread by wind and rain, discolors fruit and weakens trees.
The cankers are generally found at the tips of branches but can spread down the stem to affect more of the plant.
Yet many of the film’s participants consider the canker of authoritarianism to be a part of their own heritage as Germans.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'canker.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Origin and Etymology of canker
Middle English, from Anglo-French cancre, chancre, from Latin cancer crab, cancer
First Known Use: before 12th centurySee Words from the same year
Definition of canker
1 obsolete : to infect with a spreading sore
2 : to corrupt the spirit of a relationship cankered by jealousy
1 : to become infested with canker
2 : to become corrupted
Examples of canker in a Sentence
such shameless ambulance chasing cankers the legal profession
Did You Know?
Canker is commonly known as the name for a type of spreading sore that eats into the tissue-a use that obviously furnished the verb with both its medical and figurative senses. The word ultimately traces back to Latin cancer, which can refer to a crab or a malignant tumor. The Greeks have a similar word, "karkinos," and according to the Ancient Greek physician Galen the tumor got its name from the way the swollen veins surrounding the affected part resembled a crab's limbs. "Cancer" was adopted into Old English, becoming "canker" in Middle English and eventually shifting in meaning to become a general term for ulcerations. "Cancer" itself was reintroduced to English later, first as a zodiacal word and then as a medical term.
CANKER Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of canker for English Language Learners
: something that causes bad things to happen
: any of various plant diseases
Medical Definition of canker
2a: a chronic inflammation of the ear in dogs, cats, or rabbits; especially : a localized form of mangeb: a chronic and progressive inflammation of the deep horn-producing tissues of the frog and sole of the hooves of horses resulting in softening and destruction of the horny layers
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up canker? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).