fes·​ter | \ˈfe-stər \
festered; festering\ˈfe-​st(ə-​)riŋ \

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

break down, corrupt, decay, decompose, disintegrate, foul, mold, molder, perish [chiefly British], putrefy, rot, spoil

Synonyms: Noun

boil, hickey, papule, pimple, pock, pustule, whelk, zit [slang]

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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


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.


pus oozed out of the fester
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The Trump administration says its tariffs are a response to China’s practices that stack the odds against American business—a perception that has festered for years in U.S. trade unions and more recently is taking hold in corporate suites. James T. Areddy, WSJ, "U.S.-China Trade Tensions on Display at Shanghai Expo," 7 Nov. 2018 Allowing these systemic risks to fester will only make a coastal real estate crash more cataclysmic. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "Climate change and the coming coastal real estate crash," 16 Oct. 2018 The problem with keeping silent is that hurt feelings fester and grow. Jeanne Phillips, San Francisco Chronicle, "Rescinded vacation invitation causes bad blood in family," 1 June 2018 Political instability festered in mainland France during the war, leading to the 1958 collapse of the Fourth Republic, which had been erected in the wake of France’s liberation from Nazi Germany. Stacy Meichtry, WSJ, "France Acknowledges Torture During Algerian War," 13 Sep. 2018 Fear was the thing that festered and led to things like anger and hatred and resentment. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "Morgan Neville on making a movie about Fred Rogers’s “radical kindness”," 8 June 2018 Encouraging mass immigration by Chinese and Indians, the British also gave some prime jobs in the colonial administration and business sphere to non-Malays, fostering resentment that festers to this day. New York Times, "Malaysian Leader Jump-Starts Elections, and Stacks the Odds," 6 Apr. 2018 Plenty of Trump's opponents have noted that this is exactly the kind of thing Russian President Vladimir Putin would want festering inside the coalition that was forged largely to protect against his country. Aaron Blake, Washington Post, "Trump goes ‘madman’ on our allies, with swipe at Germany," 11 July 2018 This wound has been festering in them for six months. Christopher Arnott, courant.com, "'Hand To God': Hanging Out With An Unhinged, Satanical Hand Puppet At Theaterworks," 12 July 2018

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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Last Updated

11 Dec 2018

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

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More Definitions for fester



English Language Learners Definition of fester

: to become painful and infected

: to become worse as time passes


fes·​ter | \ˈfe-stər \
festered; festering

Kids Definition of fester

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


fes·​ter | \ˈfes-tər \

Medical Definition of fester 

(Entry 1 of 2)

: a suppurating sore : pustule

festered; festering\-​t(ə-​)riŋ \

Medical Definition of fester (Entry 2 of 2)

: to generate pus

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More from Merriam-Webster on fester

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with fester

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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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having a pattern of small flowers

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