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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for fester

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Noun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb As friction mounted, city officials underreacted, allowing the situation to fester while trying to please all sides, only to then swoop in with a heavy hand. Steve Lopez Columnist, Los Angeles Times, "Column: In Echo Park, a glaring example of L.A.'s failed leadership on homelessness," 25 Mar. 2021 The unwillingness to roll back on reopening measures even when cases worsened compromised national efforts to contain the virus last year, Lushniak said, allowing pockets of transmission to fester and spread. Washington Post, "Coronavirus cases are falling. But local officials say it’s too soon to ease most restrictions.," 19 Feb. 2021 Some in Incline say the problem has been allowed to fester because their town is relatively small and isolated from the bulk of Washoe residents outside the Tahoe basin. Gregory Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle, "Tahoe's last holdout is about to pass new rules on Airbnb, Vrbo rentals. Residents aren't happy," 21 Mar. 2021 The converse is also true: to restrict access to information is to allows politics to fester. Howard Yu, Forbes, "Here’s What Boeing 777’s Engine Problem Teaches Us," 1 Mar. 2021 At 3-for-45, the Wild has the worst clip in the NHL — an eyesore that continues to fester and cost the team points. Sarah Mclellan, Star Tribune, "'Shoot it, shoot it': Wild focuses on scoring more," 17 Feb. 2021 The feud continues to fester, although officials recently have indicated a resolution may be within reach. Isabel Debre, The Christian Science Monitor, "Al-Jazeera reporters' phones hacked using Israeli firm's spyware," 21 Dec. 2020 An exhaust fan venting to the attic can cause problems to fester for months or years, and attract not only mold and rot but termites and pests. Paul F.p. Pogue, chicagotribune.com, "Ask Angie’s List: How to prevent bathroom mold," 25 Feb. 2021 Their reticence to take action is yet another example of how Republican leaders have allowed those forces to fester and strengthen. Catie Edmondson, BostonGlobe.com, "GOP quiet as pressure mounts to address lawmaker’s conspiracy claims," 29 Jan. 2021

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about fester

Time Traveler for fester

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about fester

Statistics for fester

Last Updated

9 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Fester.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fester. Accessed 18 Apr. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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 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 fester (audio) \

Medical Definition of fester (Entry 2 of 2)

: to generate pus

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on fester

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


Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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