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

Examples of foment in a Sentence

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 Tensions remain high, with violence breaking out twice in recent months, and Western countries fear that Russia could try to foment trouble in the Balkans to avert attention from the war in Ukraine. Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports,, 23 Nov. 2023 Moldova’s government alleged Russia planned to foment a coup to overthrow its pro-European government in March. Chris Massaro, Fox News, 18 Nov. 2023 The result is that even if the great powers avoid war with one another, their actions can foment war elsewhere. Paul Poast, The Atlantic, 17 Nov. 2023 Russia mounts major attack on key city in eastern Ukraine Avdiivka has been a target ever since Russia began fomenting war in the eastern Donbas region in 2014. Serhii Korolchuk, Washington Post, 24 Oct. 2023 Researchers at Microsoft said earlier this year that Iran was running more sophisticated operations that sought to undermine warming ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia and foment unrest in Bahrain. Paul Mozur, New York Times, 31 Oct. 2023 Political commentators lambasted the government, which has fomented unprecedented political dissent in Israel over its judicial overhaul program, for its failure to anticipate what appeared to be a Hamas attack unseen in its level of planning and coordination. Josef Federman and Issam Adwan, The Christian Science Monitor, 7 Oct. 2023 Instead, Israeli intelligence assessed that Hamas was trying to foment violence against Israelis in the West Bank, which is controlled by its rival, the Palestinian Authority. Maria Abi-Habib, New York Times, 29 Oct. 2023 Russia prison population plummets as convicts are sent to war Avdiivka has been a target since Russia began fomenting war in Ukraine in 2014, and arguably has more strategic value than Bakhmut, which Russia seized in May. Serhii Korolchuk, Washington Post, 28 Oct. 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 6 Dec. 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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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