canker

1 of 2

noun

can·​ker ˈkaŋ-kər How to pronounce canker (audio)
1
a(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 sense 1
4
: a source of corruption or debasement
suspicion is a canker that … will consume and waste all loveR. Sibbes
5
chiefly dialectal : dog rose
cankerous adjective

canker

2 of 2

verb

cankered; cankering ˈkaŋ-k(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce canker (audio)

transitive verb

1
obsolete : to infect with a spreading sore
2
: to corrupt the spirit of
a relationship cankered by jealousy

intransitive verb

1
: to become infested with canker
2
: to become corrupted

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.

Examples of canker in a Sentence

Verb such shameless ambulance chasing cankers the legal profession
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Winter is a good time to prune out cankers since disease pathogens are less likely to spread in freezing weather while plants are dormant. Beth Botts, Chicago Tribune, 27 Jan. 2024 The affected branch may die back from the tip down to the canker and beyond. Beth Botts, Chicago Tribune, 27 Jan. 2024 Sources of this disease can include old cankers, healthy buds, leaf surfaces and nearby weeds and grasses. oregonlive, 19 Aug. 2023 The disease often infects branches on sycamores, causing girdling cankers and dieback. Tim Johnson, Chicago Tribune, 5 Aug. 2023 Cedar can have dead tops for several reasons: squirrel damage, drought effects, heat scorch or some fungal canker diseases. oregonlive, 14 Aug. 2022 A couple of things to watch for are oozing sap blisters indicating a canker, which is common in this area. oregonlive, 26 Jan. 2023 Pine ghost canker has spread to southern California. Matthew Gavin Frank, Harper's Magazine, 3 May 2023 Poultices made from vinca (periwinkle) leaves have traditionally been used for drawing pus out of cankers and infections. Elizabeth Heath, Discover Magazine, 15 Feb. 2023
Verb
Start by removing all blighted twigs and cankered branches 6 to 10 inches below the edge of visible infection. Tim Johnson, chicagotribune.com, 1 Aug. 2019 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'canker.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun and Verb

Middle English, from Anglo-French cancre, chancre, from Latin cancer crab, cancer

First Known Use

Noun

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of canker was before the 12th century

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Dictionary Entries Near canker

Cite this Entry

“Canker.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/canker. Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

canker

noun
can·​ker
ˈkaŋ-kər
1
: an often spreading sore that eats into tissue
2
a
: an area of dead tissue in a plant
b
: a plant disease marked by cankers
3
: any of various animal diseases marked especially by inflammation
cankerous
ˈkaŋ-k(ə-)rəs
adjective
Etymology

Noun

Middle English canker "spreading sore," from an early French dialect word cancre (same meaning), from Latin cancer "crab, cancer" — related to cancer, chancre see Word History at cancer

Medical Definition

canker

noun
can·​ker ˈkaŋ-kər How to pronounce canker (audio)
1
a(1)
: an erosive or spreading sore
(2)
obsolete : gangrene
2
a
: a chronic inflammation of the ear in dogs, cats, or rabbits
especially : a localized form of mange
b
: 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

More from Merriam-Webster on canker

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