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
2 : fixation
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 fetish for bipartisanship has dominated Washington for at least 80 years. Nicole Hemmer, CNN, 21 July 2021 Shots in the shows of bare feet were presented as evidence of a fetish. New York Times, 30 June 2021 Kirkwood points to how freely — and enthusiastically — Detroit would talk about his foot fetish and other points of interest people tend to downplay in casual conversation. Ed Masley, The Arizona Republic, 26 June 2021 The eccentric Mexican actress María Félix had a fetish for reptile jewelry. Jill N Newman, Town & Country, 4 June 2021 Bashir successfully monetized the millennial fetish for experiences and managed to keep a travel business afloat during a pandemic. Jenny Singer, Glamour, 29 Apr. 2021 The writer and performer Tavi Gevinson, who knows something about popularity and fetish, met Gorman in Milan at a weekend-long Prada event two years ago. Doreen St. Félix, Vogue, 7 Apr. 2021 Or perhaps optimism from a company headquartered in Germany, a country with a recycling fetish, prodded on by policies that make companies responsible for proper disposal of their products. Alden Wicker, Wired, 22 Apr. 2021 Meanwhile, don’t expect this problem to go away anytime soon — our fetish for adding internet connections to just about everything these days means the attack surface hackers enjoy keeps getting exponentially, and terrifyingly, bigger. Andy Meek, BGR, 14 Apr. 2021

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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Last Updated

25 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Fetish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fetish. Accessed 2 Aug. 2021.

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More Definitions for fetish



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

More from Merriam-Webster on fetish

Nglish: Translation of fetish for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about fetish


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