fes·​ter | \ ˈfe-stər How to pronounce fester (audio) \
festered; festering\ ˈfe-​st(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce festering (audio) \

Definition of fester

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to generate pus The wound became inflamed and festered.
2 : putrefy, rot festering carrion
3a : to cause increasing poisoning, irritation, or bitterness : rankle dissent festered unchecked His resentment festered for years.
b : to undergo or exist in a state of progressive deterioration allowed slums to fester

transitive verb

: to make inflamed or corrupt



Definition of fester (Entry 2 of 2)

: a suppurating sore : pustule

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Synonyms for fester

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Noun

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Did You Know?


Fester first entered English as a noun in the early 14th century. It was originally used as we now use the word fistula, for an abnormal passage leading from an abscess or hollow organ and permitting passage of fluids or secretions. It later came to refer to a sore that discharges pus. The connection between "fester" and "fistula" is no accident - both descend from Latin fistula, which has the same meaning as the English word but can also mean "pipe" or "tube" or "a kind of ulcer." "Fester" made the trip from Latin to English by way of Anglo-French. By the end of the 14th century, it was also being used as a verb meaning "to generate pus," a use that has since developed extended senses implying a worsening state.

Examples of fester in a Sentence

Verb His wounds festered for days before he got medical attention. His feelings of resentment have festered for years. We should deal with these problems now instead of allowing them to fester. Noun pus oozed out of the fester
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Saudi Arabia's role in the 2018 slaying of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and Washington Post journalist, remains a festering wound in the alliance. Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY, "Pensacola shooting by Saudi national raises new questions about US-Saudi alliance," 9 Dec. 2019 Out of sight, out of mind, the country's political elite seems to say, appearing content to keep festering wounds in the margins. Tamara Qiblawi, CNN, "Beirut once billed itself as a glitzy capital. Now its economy faces a painful reckoning," 23 Nov. 2019 The choice comes as the country weathers troubled times, including ongoing anti-government protests and the constant threat of being ensnared by festering US-Iran tensions. BostonGlobe.com, "Iraqi blocs select new PM-designate after weeks of jockeying," 1 Feb. 2020 This diversity of training options can teach employees how to handle issues directly themselves, without letting them fester or escalate. Fortune, "Microaggressions Could Lead to a Blowup in Your Company," 17 Dec. 2019 The company has been accused of creating spaces for harassment to fester online by allowing hate speech and extremist speech. Sarah Min, CBS News, "Controversial YouTube star PewDiePie is taking a break," 16 Dec. 2019 Water that sits stagnant in old pipes, cooling towers or hotel rooms can become a breeding ground for the dangerous bacteria to grow and fester when water is not cool or hot enough. Lauren Weber, chicagotribune.com, "Record number of Legionnaires’ cases in 2018 risk lives, cause cleanup headaches," 8 Nov. 2019 As the division in Trump’s party festered, the administration sent contradictory messages. Noah Bierman, Los Angeles Times, "Trump looks increasingly isolated over Syria withdrawal," 16 Oct. 2019 And deep in the al-Hol camp are clues to how sympathy and support for the Islamist group can spread and fester. NBC News, "How one Syrian camp shows the fight against ISIS isn't over," 20 Sep. 2019

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

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First Known Use of fester


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


14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for fester


Middle English, from Anglo-French festre, from Latin fistula pipe, fistulous ulcer

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Time Traveler for fester

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The first known use of fester was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

20 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Fester.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fester. Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for fester


How to pronounce fester (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of fester

: to become painful and infected
: to become worse as time passes


fes·​ter | \ ˈfe-stər How to pronounce fester (audio) \
festered; festering

Kids Definition of fester

: to become painfully red and sore and usually full of pus The wound festered.


fes·​ter | \ ˈfes-tər How to pronounce fester (audio) \

Medical Definition of fester

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a suppurating sore : pustule
festered; festering\ -​t(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce festering (audio) \

Medical Definition of fester (Entry 2 of 2)

: to generate pus

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More from Merriam-Webster on fester

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for fester

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with fester

Spanish Central: Translation of fester

Nglish: Translation of fester for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of fester for Arabic Speakers

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