can·​ker | \ ˈkaŋ-kər How to pronounce canker (audio) \

Definition of canker

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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 sense 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


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

Definition of canker (Entry 2 of 2)

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

Other Words from canker


cankerous \ ˈkaŋ-​k(ə-​)rəs How to pronounce canker (audio) \ adjective

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 Many people note an association between canker sores and a common toothpaste ingredient called sodium lauryl sulfate. Dr. Keith Roach, oregonlive, 16 May 2022 The mainstay of apple canker control is pruning out the cankers. oregonlive, 23 Jan. 2022 Sometimes the canker is an area of swollen bark, and some cankers bleed sap. Beth Botts,, 20 Feb. 2022 The move came after potato wart, an unsightly canker that poses no threat to human health, was detected in two fields. Washington Post, 5 Feb. 2022 Remove cankered limbs from fruit and nut trees for control of diseases such as apple anthracnose, bacterial canker of stone fruit and Eastern filbert blight. oregonlive, 1 Feb. 2022 The canker, which can spread through infected potatoes, soil and equipment, had before the November discoveries been detected 33 times on Prince Edward Island since 2000. Washington Post, 5 Feb. 2022 Scout cherry trees for signs and symptoms of bacterial canker. oregonlive, 3 Jan. 2022 Remove cankered limbs from fruit and nut trees for control of diseases such as apple anthracnose and bacterial canker of stone fruit. oregonlive, 3 Aug. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Start by removing all blighted twigs and cankered branches 6 to 10 inches below the edge of visible infection. Tim Johnson,, 1 Aug. 2019 See More

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 of canker


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


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

History and Etymology for canker

Noun and Verb

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

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Time Traveler for canker

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

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Cite this Entry

“Canker.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for canker


can·​ker | \ ˈkaŋ-kər How to pronounce canker (audio) \

Medical Definition of canker

1a(1) : an erosive or spreading sore
(2) obsolete : gangrene
2a : 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

Nglish: Translation of canker for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about canker


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