fet·​id ˈfe-təd How to pronounce fetid (audio)
 especially British  ˈfē-tid
: having a heavy offensive smell
a fetid swamp
fetidly adverb
fetidness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for fetid

malodorous, stinking, fetid, noisome, putrid, rank, fusty, musty mean bad-smelling.

malodorous may range from the unpleasant to the strongly offensive.

malodorous fertilizers

stinking and fetid suggest the foul or disgusting.

prisoners were held in stinking cells
the fetid odor of skunk cabbage

noisome adds a suggestion of being harmful or unwholesome as well as offensive.

a stagnant, noisome sewer

putrid implies particularly the sickening odor of decaying organic matter.

the putrid smell of rotting fish

rank suggests a strong unpleasant smell.

rank cigar smoke

fusty and musty suggest lack of fresh air and sunlight, fusty also implying prolonged uncleanliness, musty stressing the effects of dampness, mildew, or age.

a fusty attic
the musty odor of a damp cellar

Examples of fetid in a Sentence

a fetid pool of water the fetid odor of rotting vegetables
Recent Examples on the Web For example, if someone anywhere else in the country gets trapped in an outhouse toilet, is submerged to the waist in fetid muck and must be extracted by fire fighters, Florida Man is jealous and will consider suing for copyright infringement. Greg Cote, Miami Herald, 26 Feb. 2024 Billions of shoreline creatures, especially shellfish, simply baked to death, strewing beaches with empty shells and a fetid stench that lingered for weeks. Carolyn Wells, Longreads, 24 Aug. 2023 And the cargo area is plumbed so that its atmosphere is exchanged every 120 seconds—not because the deceased may be emitting fetid odors but because the attendant floral arrangements atop the casket inevitably are. John Phillips, Car and Driver, 26 Aug. 2023 Inside, the air is still infused with the fetid stink of damp and rot after a cleaning team from the local Ukrainian charity Lighthouse of Revival shoveled most of the mud from the floors and hacked away the waterlogged lower half of each wall. Scott Peterson, The Christian Science Monitor, 16 Aug. 2023 The flowers, a brownish-purple don’t smell great, so the trees are pollinated by flies and beetles — anything attracted to the fetid stench. Karl Schneider, The Indianapolis Star, 7 Aug. 2023 But thousands are waiting in Mexico for an appointment to seek humanitarian protection in the United States, jammed into fetid tent camps similar to those Joe Biden deplored on the campaign trail in 2020. Maria Sacchetti, BostonGlobe.com, 18 July 2023 Two hours later, the same thing happened at a pump station in north suburban Wilmette and another, much larger facility off Lawrence Avenue in Chicago, where fetid gunk flowed into the North Branch of the Chicago River for nearly a day. Chicago Tribune Staff, Chicago Tribune, 17 July 2023 The cause of the nuisance is Smithfield, a pork producer that runs an industrial hog complex in eastern North Carolina whose massive farms are ringed by fetid waste lagoons, left to simmer in the open air, sometimes only yards from neighbors’ property lines. Leslie Pariseau, Los Angeles Times, 14 June 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'fetid.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Latin foetidus, from foetēre to stink

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of fetid was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near fetid

Cite this Entry

“Fetid.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fetid. Accessed 22 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


fet·​id ˈfet-əd How to pronounce fetid (audio)
: having a strong unpleasant smell
fetidly adverb
fetidness noun

Medical Definition


variants also foetid
ˈfet-əd, especially British ˈfē-tid
: having a heavy offensive smell

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