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

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 Your boyfriend’s blowup, regardless of his unusual fetish, speaks volumes about his maturity or lack thereof. Anna Pulley, Chicago Tribune, 7 Sep. 2022 In an age when everyone makes a fetish of authenticity, friendships are shown to be the flimsiest and least authentic of constructs, mediated by TikTok and easily destroyed by an illicit text chain. Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, 4 Aug. 2022 But, to put this in context, Disney has a serious fetish for orphans. Lester Fabian Brathwaite, EW.com, 21 July 2022 Although very little about needing health care and medication meets the definition of a market transaction between a willing buyer and seller, many in this country have a powerful fetish for preferring markets over government price caps. Michael Taylor, San Antonio Express-News, 6 July 2022 The threat is gun idolatry, a form of gun fetish that’s fundamentally aggressive, grotesquely irresponsible, and potentially destabilizing to American democracy. Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review, 6 June 2022 Leda, seeing the doll abandoned on the beach, steals and hides it, turning it into a sort of fetish—bathing it, dressing it, cuddling with it. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 3 Jan. 2022 His early responses lived in the world of mod fashion colors and the computer fetish of the 1970s and ’80s. Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, 27 May 2022 While the police force faces a massive task of image rehabilitation on screen, these are unexpectedly rich times at the movies for anyone with a firefighter fetish. Guy Lodge, Variety, 4 June 2022 See More

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.

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

23 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Fetish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fetish. Accessed 26 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for fetish


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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