\ ˈfes How to pronounce fess (audio) \
fessed; fessing; fesses

Definition of fess

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to own up : confess usually used with up


\ ˈfes How to pronounce fess (audio) \
variants: or less commonly fesse

Definition of fess (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a broad horizontal bar across the middle of a heraldic field
2 : the center point of an armorial escutcheon

Examples of fess in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

During a recent appearance at Leicester University, Middleton fessed up to a fan. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Kate Middleton Admits She's "So Bad" at Italian—But Will Make Sure Her Children Are Better," 30 Nov. 2018 The little girl at first denied placing the $162 order, but eventually fessed up. Matthew Hennessey, WSJ, "Siri, Why Do I Feel Like I’m Being Watched?," 10 Aug. 2018 One of the former owners fessed up and told Travis and Denay, whose children range from 2 to 13, just days after the sale was completed, according to KATU. Matthew Martinez, The Seattle Times, "Family didn’t know dream home was contaminated with meth," 6 Aug. 2018 Secretary of State John Kerry failed to force Tehran to fess up about what happened to Mr. Levinson, a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran in 2007 while on a mission for the CIA. William Mcgurn, WSJ, "Bring Pastor Andrew Brunson Home," 6 Aug. 2018 The parent of Chicken of the Sea, a Thai company named Thai Union Group, promptly bailed out of the merger and fessed up to the Justice Department in return for amnesty from prosecution. Michael Hiltzik, latimes.com, "The Bumble Bee tuna price-fixing case could point to the future of white-collar prosecutions," 24 May 2018 Finally, with his presidential campaign about to launch, Harding had to fess-up to the Republican National Committee about his predicament. Elaine Weiss, WSJ, "Presidential Hush Money, Circa 1920," 31 May 2018 Warren East, the embattled British company’s chief executive, fessed up this month that replacing faulty turbine blades in engines on 787s will cost it £580m ($800m) over the next two years. The Economist, "The world’s three biggest engine-makers hit a snag," 22 Mar. 2018 Those familiar with the process wouldn’t fess up to which tweets were staff-written. Annie Linskey, BostonGlobe.com, "Trump’s tweets include grammatical errors. And some are on purpose," 22 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Not until after the game -- LSU beat South Carolina 6-4 to stay alive in the SEC Tournament -- did Peterson fess up. Christopher Dabe, NOLA.com, "Todd Peterson's high school coach tells truth about LSU pitcher's hitting ability," 25 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'fess.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of fess


1840, in the meaning defined above


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for fess


short for confess


Middle English fesse, from Anglo-French faisse band, from Latin fascia — more at fascia

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about fess

Dictionary Entries near fess


fescue foot




fess point

fess up

Statistics for fess

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for fess

The first known use of fess was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

More from Merriam-Webster on fess

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with fess

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about fess

Comments on fess

What made you want to look up fess? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!