fe·​brile ˈfe-ˌbrī(-ə)l How to pronounce febrile (audio)
ˈfē- How to pronounce febrile (audio)
: marked or caused by fever : feverish
a febrile reaction caused by an allergy

Did you know?

Not too surprisingly, febrile originated in the field of medicine. We note its first use in the work of the 17th-century medical reformer Noah Biggs. Biggs used it in admonishing physicians to care for their "febrile patients" properly. Both feverish and febrile are from the Latin word for "fever," which is febris. Nowadays, febrile is used in medicine in a variety of ways, including references to such things as "the febrile phase" of an illness. And, like feverish, it also has an extended sense, as in "a febrile emotional state."

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web According to Jamie Hutton, a pediatrician practicing in Virginia and with the Maven Clinic, a telehealth company focusing on women’s and family health, continuous monitoring with a wearable thermometer might also be useful for febrile seizures in children. Connie Chang, Washington Post, 30 Mar. 2021 Arsenal's 2-0 win in a febrile atmosphere inside St. James' Park left City with a one-point lead with three weeks left in the season. Steve Douglas, ajc, 7 May 2023 Back in the febrile 1960s, this job had required high-security clearance, and at first production moved location every few months. Nicholas Foulkes, Robb Report, 15 Apr. 2023 Ma’s historic trip is taking place against that febrile geopolitical backdrop and comes as Taiwan and the United States ramp up efforts to counter China’s growing military capabilities. Eric Cheung, CNN, 20 Mar. 2023 The sinewy physicality and febrile intensity that George MacKay brought to films like True History of the Kelly Gang and 1917 gets amplified by ferocious self-loathing in Femme. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 19 Feb. 2023 The debate has made for some febrile scenes. Alexander Smith, NBC News, 25 Sep. 2022 Szabó’s psychological acuity, amply on display in her later novels, is thoroughly present here too, despite the novel’s reliance on febrile midcentury melodrama. Anne Fadiman, Harper’s Magazine , 1 Mar. 2023 Her benign comment, while welcomed with relief in some circles, prompted a surprisingly febrile reaction in others. Holly Thomas, CNN, 31 Jan. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Medieval Latin febrilis, from Latin febris fever

First Known Use

1651, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of febrile was in 1651


Dictionary Entries Near febrile

Cite this Entry

“Febrile.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/febrile. Accessed 5 Jun. 2023.

Medical Definition


ˈfeb-ˌrīl also ˈfēb-
: marked or caused by fever : feverish

More from Merriam-Webster on febrile

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