fe·​tish | \ ˈfe-tish 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

Keep scrolling for more

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 One fetish involved administering dangerous doses of drugs, the documents said. NBC News, "'Incomprehensible': Lawmaker blasts authorities for letting Ed Buck roam free," 19 Sep. 2019 Butlers and housekeepers often have the inside scoop on offshore bank accounts and business deals, not to mention the strange and weird fetishes of their employers. Annabelle Spranklen, Town & Country, "What It's Really Like to Work at a House Like Downton Abbey Today," 16 Sep. 2019 India’s fetish for military memorabilia has found its way into yet another commercial brand. Manavi Kapur, Quartz India, "Abhinandan Indians! Your watch could now carry a piece of IAF history," 11 Sep. 2019 Carol Ford, who coauthored Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography and serves as an unofficial spokesperson for Crane’s second family, says the movie overemphasized the star’s fetish. Lynette Rice, EW.com, "The tragic, unsolved murder of Hogan's Heroes star Bob Crane," 26 Aug. 2019 It later was alleged that Christensen had conducted searches about abduction fantasies on a fetish website, according to a criminal complaint obtained by PEOPLE. Jeff Truesdell, PEOPLE.com, "Mom of Slain Illinois Scholar Says 'Tears Keep Streaming Down My Face' When She Thinks of Daughter," 14 Nov. 2019 Her fetish for vinyl records ranged from early ragtime blues to rare and obscure rock en español. Los Angeles Times, "L.A. Affairs: I was into her. But she was into playing games.," 31 Aug. 2019 On the surface, the idea that a cartoon pig is trending within gay fetish and kink culture is an astonishing and hilarious turn. Alex Abad-santos, Vox, "How Peppa Pig became an LGBTQ icon," 29 July 2019 Belanger's objects resonate like fetishes, and her spaces like stage sets in the theater of the unconscious. Leah Ollman, latimes.com, "The hairbrush made of fingers and other scenes from the mind of Genesis Belanger," 8 June 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about fetish

Time Traveler for fetish

Time Traveler

The first known use of fetish was in 1613

See more words from the same year

Statistics for fetish

Last Updated

6 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Fetish.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fetish. Accessed 13 December 2019.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for fetish


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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on fetish

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for fetish

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with fetish

Spanish Central: Translation of fetish

Nglish: Translation of fetish for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about fetish

Comments on fetish

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


easily led, controlled, or managed

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble tiles that read scrabble quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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