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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from foster


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

Examples of foster in a Sentence

Verb Such conditions foster the spread of the disease. Would you consider fostering a child?
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Author and business executive Steve Pemberton offered an eloquent encapsulation of his inspiring biography, telling of his climb from unwanted foster child to man with a successful career and family., "At the convention, activists offered divided views on the prospect of a Kennedy-Markey showdown.," 15 Sep. 2019 More than 50,000 foster children live in California. Richae Robinson, The Mercury News, "Opinion: California foster youth need support well into their 20s," 8 Sep. 2019 But even as the number of domestic and international adoptions plummet, the number of children available through foster care is surging, according to Oberdorfer. Jasmine Johnson, Twin Cities, "Minnesota adoptions falling. International adoptions most affected.," 31 Aug. 2019 This resulted in a foster child going to a home with an estranged father with a history of violence., "Journalistic impact can be measured in new laws, proposed reforms: Editor’s notebook," 23 Aug. 2019 Elise Schuster has seen 49 foster children come through her home in the Montezuma Valley. Sam Tabachnik, The Denver Post, "“So many kids getting hurt”: Sexual abuse and neglect ignored in rural Colorado county, report finds," 9 Aug. 2019 The group works in countries all over the world, partnering with governments and other nonprofit organizations, concentrating on children in orphanages and foster care. Hank Beckman,, "Kidsave picnics, gatherings lead to adoptions of Third World orphans," 21 July 2019 The film tells the tale of a foster child (Gordon-Levitt) who prays for the California Angels to win the pennant, leading to divine intervention from a group of real angels led by Christopher Lloyd‘s Al. Tyler Aquilina,, "Joseph Gordon-Levitt posts throwback photo for Angels in the Outfield 25th anniversary," 15 July 2019 So has the use of psychoactive medications for behavioral control, not therapeutic, purposes, as in the case of foster children receiving high doses of psychiatric medications. S.e. Smith, Vox, "Meet the people fighting for health care access for disabled kids detained at the border," 26 June 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Most of the dogs will go to foster families and then be adopted at events in the Washington region. Dana Hedgpeth,, "21 dogs rescued from South Carolina as Hurricane Dorian comes closer," 13 Sep. 2019 Proponents maintain that the dam will foster local development and create jobs. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Turkey Is Moving Forward With Plans to Flood a 10,000-Year-Old City," 12 Sep. 2019 Four of its five budget priorities—ensuring a strong military, advancing cutting-edge technologies like 5G and artificial intelligence, fostering medical breakthroughs, and promoting space exploration—were also featured in the 2018 memo. Jeffrey Mervis, Science | AAAS, "New memo offers first glimpse of how Trump’s science adviser would like to shape spending priorities," 4 Sep. 2019 Businesses play a vital role in the economy by creating jobs, fostering innovation, and providing essential goods and services. Fortune, "America’s CEOs Seek a New Purpose for the Corporation," 19 Aug. 2019 Under Section 230, the website, known for fostering extremism and hate speech, is shielded from liability. Matthew Reynolds, USA TODAY, "Father of slain journalist asks Congress for exceptions to legal protections for big tech," 9 Aug. 2019 Known for his interactive art installations, these participatory experiences are meant to demonstrate how acts of kindness can foster connections with strangers and build community. Anne Nickoloff,, "5 things to do in Cleveland on Sunday, Aug. 4," 4 Aug. 2019 Fourteen cats that had remained at the facility were adopted out, and Delilah and Petite are currently being fostered and are expected to be adopted soon, the WCW said. NBC News, "Cats saved from gov't 'kitten slaughterhouse' visit Capitol to purr thank you," 26 July 2019 Happen's Toy Lab gives these toys a new life and allows children and adults alike to foster their creativity and learn about the environment in the process. Rachel Berry,, "Happen's Toy Lab brings a sense of child-like creativity for all ages," 23 July 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about foster

Statistics for foster

Last Updated

25 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for foster

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for foster


How to pronounce Foster (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on foster

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for foster

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with foster

Spanish Central: Translation of foster

Nglish: Translation of foster for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of foster for Arabic Speakers

Comments on foster

What made you want to look up foster? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a calculated move

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Confusing Words—A Quiz

  • alice with tweedle dee and tweedle dum
  • I invented a brand new toaster robot and ______ it "Sir Toasts-a-Lot."
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!