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

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 women’s World Cup has been around for 28 years, 61 fewer than the men’s World Cup, which had a bumpy first couple of decades with scant competition and festering corruption. Ann Killion, SFChronicle.com, "US women carry on legacy from 1999 World Cup: ‘This is how we envisioned it’," 6 July 2019 Importantly, the researchers found that the amount of fungal contamination in each resident’s room strongly and positively correlated with the amount festering on the resident’s skin. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "A deadly, drug-resistant fungus has swept the globe—here’s how it spreads," 27 June 2019 The anger is raw and festering; many people are even more enraged at Peterson than the shooter. oregonlive.com, "He’ll go down in history as a coward, but is he a criminal?," 16 June 2019 The conditions — festering for years — prompted a state and federal investigation and a number of lawsuits, including one class action federal challenge that forced major changes to the prison's practices. Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Urgency to close Lincoln Hills youth prison fades as costs — and concerns — mount," 14 June 2019 What kinds of emotional wounds, if untreated, can fester into violence? Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "The Family Values of Big Little Lies," 7 June 2019 Other coming-of-age movies, like the Brat Pack films or Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, might have used this moment to unpack the class dynamics festering under the surface of the conversation. Kristen Evans, The New Republic, "Booksmart Deserved Better," 5 June 2019 The Ganges here is inky with ash and sewage and festering with dead cows. Paul Salopek, National Geographic, "One of India's holiest cities is being reborn. Not everyone is happy," 21 Mar. 2019 The decriminalization debate will continue to fester and divide. Rubén Rosario, Twin Cities, "Rosario: The nation’s drug czar cometh to the Gopher State to listen, not to conquer," 6 June 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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Last Updated

10 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for fester

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 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

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

Comments on fester

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something desired as essential

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