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 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 The prosthesis becomes a fetish, simultaneously a grim medical time capsule and a totem of American history gone wrong, its heroic trajectory cut off below the knee. The Economist, "Alternative histories A flawed but relevant adaptation of “The Plot Against America”," 20 Apr. 2020 While pop’s famous fetish for touch and makeouts often results in songs that feel frenzied and chaotic, there’s frequently purpose, dignity, and even grandeur to tracks about enlightened disconnection. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "How to Party Alone," 1 Apr. 2020 The weird little bacon fetish that our culture has developed over the past decade has gotten out of control. Katherine Timpf, National Review, "Bacon Isn’t Even That Good," 28 Feb. 2020 The name speaks for itself, who wouldn’t want a little eye fetish? Teen Vogue, "14 Best Mascaras of 2019," 21 Oct. 2019 Defense lawyer Barry Sheppard told Judge Maria Valdez Nesbitt ran a legal fetish business, called Kink Extraordinaires, not a prostitution ring. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Chicago woman charged in alleged US prostitution ring," 18 Sep. 2019 Some shine after restorations of fetish-like reverence, bespoke homages to the past. John King, SFChronicle.com, "Urban Handbook: Ghost signs’ often-brief lives tell stories of the past," 31 Dec. 2019 That’s why a distinguishing characteristic of the post-Boomer economy is an obsession, almost on the order of a fetish, with acquiring education. The Economist, "Smashed like avocados: how young people are treated by their elders," 10 July 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.

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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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Cite this Entry

“Fetish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fetish. Accessed 11 Aug. 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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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

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