fo·​mite | \ ˈfō-ˌmīt How to pronounce fomite (audio) \
plural fomites\ ˈfō-​ˌmīts How to pronounce fomite (audio) ; ˈfä-​mə-​ˌtēz How to pronounce fomite (audio) , ˈfō-​ How to pronounce fomite (audio) \

Definition of fomite

: an object (such as a dish, doorknob, or article of clothing) that may be contaminated with infectious agents (such as bacteria or viruses) and serve in their transmission

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Did You Know?

Disinfectant on your hands keeps us healthier and fomites no longer foment as much disease. Australian newspaper contributor Peter Goers was likely going for alliteration when he paired up "fomite" and "foment," a verb meaning "to promote the growth or development of"-but, whether he realized it or not, the words "fomite" and "foment" are also related. "Fomite" is a back-formation of "fomites," the Latin plural of "fomes," itself a word for tinder. (Much like tinder is a catalyst of fire, a fomite can kindle disease.) "Fomes" is akin to the Latin verb fovēre ("to heat"), an ancestor of "foment."

Examples of fomite in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web While wearing your mask, the front of it especially should be treated as a potential fomite (source of transmission), so ensure proper fitment when putting it on initially to avoid having to touch it while wearing. Corey Gaskin, Ars Technica, "Mask up! How to choose and maintain the best masks for use against COVID-19," 20 Nov. 2020 It is spread primarily from symptomatic people to others who are in close contact through respiratory droplets, by direct contact with infected persons, or by contact with contaminated objects and surfaces (fomites). Dr. Tom Frieden And Dr. Cyrus Shahpar, CNN, "Virology in the time of coronavirus: What a difference a month makes -- and the most important questions we still need to answer," 9 Apr. 2020 But while fomites are known to be the culprits in many outbreaks, an individual’s risk depends on a lot of factors. Joseph Eisenberg, The Conversation, "Viruses live on doorknobs and phones and can get you sick – smart cleaning and good habits can help protect you," 17 Mar. 2020 Once human carriers contaminate objects—known to medical professionals as fomites—there’s a new challenge of cleaning surfaces and washing hands to stymie the spread of the coronavirus. National Geographic, "THE BEST OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX," 13 Mar. 2020 Possible culprits for that kind of transmission include fomites, the objects and surfaces on which germs can land and hang out for up to a few hours, ready to be picked up. Aarian Marshall, Wired, "In Planes and Trains, Mini-Mops and Fog Machines Battle Coronavirus," 6 Mar. 2020

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

1803, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for fomite

back-formation from fomites, from New Latin, plural of fomit-, fomes, from Latin, kindling wood; akin to Latin fovēre to heat — more at foment

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Cite this Entry

“Fomite.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for fomite


fo·​mite | \ ˈfō-ˌmīt How to pronounce fomite (audio) \
plural fomites\ -​ˌmīts; ˈfäm-​ə-​ˌtēz How to pronounce fomite (audio) , ˈfōm-​ How to pronounce fomite (audio) \

Medical Definition of fomite

: an object (as a dish, toy, book, doorknob, or article of clothing) that may be contaminated with infectious agents (as bacteria or viruses) and serve in their transmission the much maligned toilet seat is a remarkably ineffective fomite— M. F. Rein what are the most common fomites for rotavirus in day-care settingsPediatric Report's Child Health Newsletter

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