fe·​tish | \ ˈfe-tish How to pronounce fetish (audio) also ˈfē- How to pronounce fetish (audio) \
variants: or less commonly fetich

Definition of fetish

1a : an object (such as a small stone carving of an animal) believed to have magical power to protect or aid its owner broadly : a material object regarded with superstitious or extravagant trust or reverence
b : an object of irrational reverence or obsessive devotion : prepossession
c : an object or bodily part whose real or fantasied presence is psychologically necessary for sexual gratification and that is an object of fixation to the extent that it may interfere with complete sexual expression
3 : a rite or cult of fetish worshippers

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A Brief History of Fetish

When fetish first appeared in English in the early 17th century, it referred to objects (often amulets) believed by certain West Africans to have supernatural powers. During the 19th century, the word took on a broader meaning: "an object of irrational devotion or reverence." The object need not be physical: a person may have a fetish for an idea, such as an unwarranted belief that a particular economic system will solve society’s ills. By the early 20th century, fetish took on yet another meaning quite distinct from its antecedents: a sexualized desire for an object (such as a shoe) or for a body part that is not directly related to the reproductive act (such as an earlobe).

Examples of fetish in a Sentence

He has a fetish for secrecy. He wore a fetish to ward off evil spirits.
Recent Examples on the Web The pandemic hasn’t put a damper on fashion’s Diana fetish. Los Angeles Times, "Diana was the people’s princess — and we’re still madly in love with her fashion," 15 Nov. 2020 Working yet again with Arias, Sawayama wore an opulent ensemble that was equal parts retro- and fetish-inspired (an interesting combo, no less). Christian Allaire, Vogue, "Rina Sawayama’s Fallon Performance Proves She’s a True Style Star," 27 Oct. 2020 In those days, there had not already occurred this crazy kind of explosion of drag influence on fashion and this incredible kind of fetish-y thing. Jessica Iredale, Town & Country, "Isaac Mizrahi's Unzipped at 25: Y’aren’t Ever Gonna See a Fashion Documentary Like This Again," 18 Oct. 2020 Handles are a minor fetish for him—the point of contact, where a person holds on to a building. Dana Goodyear, The New Yorker, "The Iconoclast Remaking Los Angeles’s Most Important Museum," 5 Oct. 2020 What if your soul mate has an unspeakable fetish, the revelation of which now also stirs some dark desire in you? Washington Post, "In ‘Soulmates,’ science discovers a way to find your perfect match — and opens a world of problems," 4 Oct. 2020 First of all: Can someone please explain to me how the American Indian names came to be a fetish in the summer camp industry? The Salt Lake Tribune, "Commentary: The most Jewish thing that Ruth Bader Ginsburg ever did," 22 Sep. 2020 Scarcely a speech or segment went by in which a fetish wasn’t made of immigrants. Tunku Varadarajan, WSJ, "Democrats Make This Nonnative Restless," 21 Aug. 2020 The artist’s performances, which explore fetish, queerness and myth, landed on the national stage during another pandemic: the HIV/AIDS crisis. Los Angeles Times, "Experimentation. Reflection. Wild ensembles. Photos show 5 L.A. artists working under quarantine," 3 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'fetish.' 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 fetish

1613, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for fetish

French & Portuguese; French fétiche, from Portuguese feitiço, from feitiço artificial, false, from Latin facticius factitious

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Time Traveler for fetish

Time Traveler

The first known use of fetish was in 1613

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Statistics for fetish

Last Updated

22 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Fetish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fetish. Accessed 1 Dec. 2020.

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More Definitions for fetish


How to pronounce fetish (audio) How to pronounce fetish (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of fetish

: a strong and unusual need or desire for something
: a need or desire for an object, body part, or activity for sexual excitement
: an object that is believed to have magical powers


variants: also fetich \ ˈfet-​ish also ˈfēt-​ \

Medical Definition of fetish

: an object or bodily part whose real or fantasized presence is psychologically necessary for sexual gratification and that is an object of fixation to the extent that it may interfere with complete sexual expression

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