fo·​ment | \ ˈfō-ˌment How to pronounce foment (audio) , fō-ˈment How to pronounce foment (audio) \
fomented; fomenting; foments

Definition of foment

transitive verb

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

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Other Words from foment

fomenter noun

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

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." 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. But the idea of applying heat can also be a metaphor for stimulating or rousing to action. Within 50 years of its English debut, "foment" was also being used in political contexts to mean "to stir up," "to call to action," or, in a sense at least figuratively opposite to its original one, "to irritate."

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 DuVernay was also snubbed for a directing nomination in 2015, which in part helped foment the social media movement #OscarsSoWhite. Los Angeles Times, "Oscars promise change after Ava DuVernay, David Oyelowo say voters sabotaged ‘Selma’," 5 June 2020 The uprising has fomented larger discourse around the instruments of mass incarceration and introduced the public to arguments for prison abolition. C. Brandon Ogbunu, Wired, "The Pandemic and the Protests Are Mirror Images," 10 June 2020 Even as cases continue to rise significantly in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear's coronavirus orders have fomented rebellion in the pews and on social media this weekend. Kala Kachmar, The Courier-Journal, "Coronavirus roundup: Facebook posts threaten Beshear; judge rules against church," 19 Apr. 2020 Numerous state, city and local governments have filed lawsuits accusing the companies that manufacture, distribute, and sell the addictive painkillers of fomenting an epidemic. Ed Silverman, STAT, "CVS long-term care pharmacy pays $15 million penalty for failing to track opioids," 13 May 2020 Planning for the possibility of a fierce storm began long before Harvey started fomenting in the Caribbean. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "This Texas Museum Was Devastated by Ike. Here’s How It Prepared For Harvey," 29 Aug. 2017 Square footage prices years ago got scary in New York City, helping to foment an exodus of talented young chefs. Hanna Raskin, Bon Appetit, "One of the Best New Restaurants In the Country Is Hidden in a Bakery in Charleston," 10 Aug. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'foment.' 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 foment

circa 1613, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for foment

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

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Time Traveler for foment

Time Traveler

The first known use of foment was circa 1613

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Last Updated

17 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Foment.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for foment


How to pronounce foment (audio) How to pronounce foment (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of foment

formal : to cause or try to cause the growth or development of (something bad or harmful)


fo·​ment | \ ˈfō-ˌment How to pronounce foment (audio) \

Medical Definition of foment

 (Entry 1 of 2)

fo·​ment | \ fō-ˈment How to pronounce foment (audio) \

Medical Definition of foment (Entry 2 of 2)

: to treat with moist heat (as for easing pain)

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More from Merriam-Webster on foment

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for foment

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with foment

Spanish Central: Translation of foment

Nglish: Translation of foment for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of foment for Arabic Speakers

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