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 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, "Do You Like My Jacket? Thanks, It's Recyclable," 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, "A huge new hacking threat was just discovered," 14 Apr. 2021 Who but Hemingway would have zeroed in like this? Death—the sight of it, the smell of it, the immanence of it—was his fetish. James Parker, The Atlantic, "‘Eliminate Every Superfluous Word’," 2 Apr. 2021 But does all of this pandemic fuss make 2021 peak fetish then? Leigh Cuen, Los Angeles Times, "What are you willing to wear on your next Zoom? Fetish fashion is on the rise," 12 Apr. 2021 For perhaps obvious reasons, little cultural space has been devoted to pee talk in general, but what little discussion has existed has largely been focused on men who have the fetish. Ej Dickson, Rolling Stone, "Why Are Women on TikTok Asking to Get Peed On?," 12 Apr. 2021 Febos’s fascination with spitting (a fetish she was tasked with performing as a domme) to a charismatic, cruel boy in her neighborhood. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, "Why We Mourn Girlhood," 7 Apr. 2021 But my friend and great Tribune sports and political columnist the late Steve Daley smirked at the Proust fetish. John Kass, chicagotribune.com, "Column: Larry McMurtry and Beverly Cleary, two friends gone on the same day," 2 Apr. 2021 The name for your husband’s fetish is body integrity identity disorder. Abigail Van Buren, oregonlive, "Dear Abby: Woman struggles to understand husband’s obsession with amputees," 31 Mar. 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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Statistics for fetish

Last Updated

2 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Fetish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fetish. Accessed 7 May. 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

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More from Merriam-Webster on fetish

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for fetish

Nglish: Translation of fetish for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about fetish

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