Definition of canker
- Citrus canker is caused by bacteria.
- suspicion is a canker that … will consume and waste all love
- —R. Sibbes
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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.
First Known Use: before 12th centurySee Words from the same year
such shameless ambulance chasing cankers the legal profession
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.
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