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 China’s refusal to let American regulators inspect the audits of its companies—has festered for years, but escalating tensions have lifted it to the top of the political agenda. Jacky Wong, WSJ, "Chinese Companies Fleeing New York Will Find Warm Welcome at Home," 25 May 2020 Yet Mahathir repeatedly delayed handing over power, prompting divisions within the ruling bloc to fester -- eventually leading to its collapse this week. Anisah Shukry, Bloomberg.com, "The Race to Lead Malaysia Comes Down to Two Long-Time Rivals," 10 May 2020 But there was deep concern that with people not working and cooped up in homes, problems can fester. Ricardo Torres, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Community organizers discuss dramatic rise in domestic violence deaths," 9 May 2020 However, amid the pandemic, conspiracy theories have festered online that Chinese researchers were responsible for the release of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "NIH abruptly cuts coronavirus research funding, alarming scientists," 1 May 2020 Doctors and health experts also worry about people with injuries or illnesses that would not be critical in the moment but can become major problems if allowed to fester. Los Angeles Times, "‘Where are the strokes and the heart attacks?’ Doctors worry as patients avoid ERs," 22 Apr. 2020 But tensions had been festering between the federal government and the colonists in Utah, which prompted Young’s removal by Buchanan. Neil Vigdor, New York Times, "Presidential Pardons Through History," 21 Feb. 2020 As the riots festered, Ayyub, who was then nineteen, decided to help. Dexter Filkins, The New Yorker, "Blood and Soil in Narendra Modi’s India," 2 Dec. 2019 The virus is festering at Oakdale as older inmates and prisoners with serious medical conditions live among the general population. Kimberly Kindy, Anchorage Daily News, "Inside the deadliest federal prison, the coronavirus creates fear and danger," 10 Apr. 2020

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

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

28 May 2020

Cite this Entry

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