fomented; fomenting; foments

transitive verb

: to promote the growth or development of : rouse, incite
foment a rebellion
was accused of fomenting a riot
fomenter noun

Did you know?

If you had sore muscles in the 1600s, your doctor might have advised you to foment the injury, perhaps with heated lotions or warm wax. Does this sound like an odd prescription? Not if you know that foment traces to the Latin verb fovēre, which means "to heat or warm" or "to soothe." The earliest documented English uses of foment appear in medical texts offering advice on how to soothe various aches and pains by the application of moist heat. In time, the idea of applying heat became a metaphor for stimulating or rousing to action. Foment then started being used in political contexts to mean "to stir up" or "to call to action."

Choose the Right Synonym for foment

incite, instigate, abet, foment mean to spur to action.

incite stresses a stirring up and urging on, and may or may not imply initiating.

inciting a riot

instigate definitely implies responsibility for initiating another's action and often connotes underhandedness or evil intention.

instigated a conspiracy

abet implies both assisting and encouraging.

aiding and abetting the enemy

foment implies persistence in goading.

fomenting rebellion

Example Sentences

He was accused of fomenting violence. John Adams's wife, Abigail, told him that if women were not remembered by the new American government, they would “foment a Rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice or Representation”.
Recent Examples on the Web This is partly because he’s also being boosted by some nasty figures from the far right—including Steve Bannon, Alex Jones, and Tucker Carlson—who are no doubt trying to foment mischief ahead of the election. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune Crypto, 12 May 2023 While other defendants have pointed at Trump’s role in fomenting the violence at the Capitol, Tarrio’s attorney Nayib Hassan was far more direct. Rachel Weiner, Washington Post, 25 Apr. 2023 Third, federal, state, and local government leaders need to stop fomenting class conflict and agitation among the populace using housing concerns; outrage doesn’t pay the rent. Roger Valdez, Forbes, 5 May 2023 Trump stands accused by his critics on the left of fomenting an insurrection to overthrow the Constitution, and the criminal offense they ... Rich Lowry, National Review, 17 Mar. 2023 The formation of the task force comes as Republicans across the state — and country — continue to foment doubt about the security and sanctity of elections following Donald Trump’s 2020 loss to President Joe Biden. Dallas News, 8 Feb. 2023 He was jailed for a bank robbery in 2011 before fighting against Ukraine in the separatist uprising fomented by Moscow following Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea. Robyn Dixon, Washington Post, 3 Apr. 2023 Trump, whose postpresidency has been defined by the same old sturm und drang that characterized his presidency, has continued to follow his two great passions: fomenting authoritarianism and doing crimes. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 31 Mar. 2023 Despite the losses and economic sanctions that Russia faces, opposition to the war has not materialized at a large scale within the country or fomented a powerful opposition to Putin or his regime. Phil Mccausland, NBC News, 18 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'foment.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, to apply a warm substance to, from Late Latin fomentare, from Latin fomentum compress, from fovēre to heat, soothe; akin to Lithuanian degti to burn, Sanskrit dahati it burns

First Known Use

circa 1613, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of foment was circa 1613


Dictionary Entries Near foment

Cite this Entry

“Foment.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


: to stir up : rouse, instigate
foment rebellion
fomenter noun

Medical Definition


1 of 2 noun
fo·​ment ˈfō-ˌment How to pronounce foment (audio)


2 of 2 transitive verb
fo·​ment fō-ˈment How to pronounce foment (audio)
: to treat with moist heat (as for easing pain)

More from Merriam-Webster on foment

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