fos·​ter | \ ˈfȯ-stər How to pronounce foster (audio) , ˈfä-\

Definition of foster

 (Entry 1 of 4)

: affording, receiving, or sharing nurture or parental care though not related by blood or legal ties They are foster parents to three foster children.


fostered; fostering\ ˈfȯ-​st(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce fostering (audio) , ˈfä-​ \

Definition of foster (Entry 2 of 4)

transitive verb

1 : to give parental care to : nurture They are considering fostering a child.
2 : to promote the growth or development of : encourage fostered the college in its early years policies that foster competition


biographical name (1)
Fos·​ter | \ ˈfȯ-stər How to pronounce Foster (audio) , ˈfä-\

Definition of Foster (Entry 3 of 4)

Stephen Collins 1826–1864 American songwriter


biographical name (2)

Definition of Foster (Entry 4 of 4)

William Z(ebulon) 1881–1961 American Communist

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Other Words from foster


fosterer \ ˈfȯ-​stər-​ər How to pronounce fosterer (audio) , ˈfä-​ \ noun

Examples of foster in a Sentence


Such conditions foster the spread of the disease. Would you consider fostering a child?

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Under McKay, the number of children in foster care has declined. Arizona Republic, "Did Arizona Department of Child Services try to bar parents from criticizing it?," 16 July 2019 Prospective foster parents have to enroll in training, undergo background checks and become licensed. Kate Santich,, "Winter Garden nonprofit looking for families to help migrant children fleeing violence," 2 July 2019 Adopting a child out of foster care is free because the costs are subsidized by the government. Claire Gibson, Marie Claire, "My Long, Messy, Beautifully Complicated Path to Adopting My Son," 1 Oct. 2018 Seven years ago, Ballard and his wife, Kristin, adopted two children of a struggling family member, an experience that forever opened his eyes to the world of foster care and adoption. Joel A. Erickson, Indianapolis Star, "Frank Reich, Chris Ballard team up to carry on Tony Dungy's legacy of fatherhood, adoption," 15 June 2019 The number of kids in foster care in Outagamie County has doubled over the past four years. CBS News, "The disturbing, heartbreaking reality of Child Protective Services caseworkers," 14 June 2019 Buddyboy would like to point out that there are also half a million humans in foster care as well. Kevin Fisher-paulson,, "Bandit weighs pack of first dog hopefuls," 11 June 2019 There are nearly 450,000 children in foster care nationwide. Kate Wehr, Good Housekeeping, "Everything You Need to Know About Foster Care, Explained," 4 June 2019 Part of the proceeds go to the Foster Hope Foundation, which provides services, clothing, supplies and activities for foster children. Laura Latzko, azcentral, "Suds & Slides: It's like summer camp for adults. With beer.," 18 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Similarly, the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, followed by bombshell reports of government abuses in the 1970s, fostered a deep distrust of authority. J.c. Pan, The New Republic, "Democratic Rot and the Origins of American Conspiracism," 3 July 2019 Exacerbating the student loan crisis by avoiding the actual issue of rising cost due to federal subsidies will foster irresponsibility and a lack of duty in the generations to come. Alyssa Ahlgren, Twin Cities, "Alyssa Ahlgren: Canceling student loan debt is regressive, among other problems," 3 July 2019 For all of the moments in America’s history when this song has brought listeners comfort and fostered unity, perhaps the song’s biggest legacy was what Irving Berlin decided to do with its success. Nancy Coleman, New York Times, "The Rich and Complicated History of ‘God Bless America’," 3 July 2019 An inspiring environment will foster the creativity of our employees to develop the next generation of great neighborhoods that people will love to call home. Steve Brown, Dallas News, "Top D-FW community developer Republic Property heads to downtown Dallas with HQ move," 1 July 2019 Tiki and Torch are fostering a chick that arrived at the Milwaukee zoo on Mother's Day and hatched four days later. Meg Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee County Zoo's whooping crane pair act as foster parents to chick born at the zoo," 28 June 2019 Later, the Plumers fostered two teenage sisters who lived with the family for a year., "Irene Plumer," 28 June 2019 There might be fostering (of criticism) in certain circles., "Roger Ailes series on Showtime likely to rile the right and the left," 26 June 2019 Operating out of a small village community also fosters sustainable practices. Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi, National Geographic, "Have a beer at one of Europe's highest breweries," 19 June 2019

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


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above


12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for foster

Adjective and Verb

Middle English, from Old English fōstor-, from fōstor food, feeding; akin to Old English fōda food

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Dictionary Entries near foster







foster care

Statistics for foster

Last Updated

19 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for foster

The first known use of foster was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for foster



English Language Learners Definition of foster

 (Entry 1 of 2)

used to describe a situation in which for a period of time a child lives with and is cared for by people who are not the child's parents



English Language Learners Definition of foster (Entry 2 of 2)

: to help (something) grow or develop
: to provide the care that a parent usually gives to a child : to be or become the foster parent of a child


fos·​ter | \ ˈfȯ-stər How to pronounce foster (audio) \

Kids Definition of foster

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: giving, receiving, or offering parental care even though not related by blood or legal ties a foster parent a foster child a foster home


fostered; fostering

Kids Definition of foster (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to give parental care to
2 : to help the growth and development of We're trying to foster a sense of responsibility.



Legal Definition of foster

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: affording, receiving, or sharing nurture or parental care though not related by blood or legal relationships a foster child a foster parent
fostered; fostering

Legal Definition of foster (Entry 2 of 2)

: to give parental care to

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More from Merriam-Webster on foster

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with foster

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for foster

Spanish Central: Translation of foster

Nglish: Translation of foster for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of foster for Arabic Speakers

Comments on foster

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characterized by aphorism

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