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wet-nursed; wet-nursing; wet-nurses

transitive verb

: to care for and breastfeed (another woman's baby) : to act as wet nurse to
: to give constant and often excessive care to

wet nurse

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: a woman who cares for and breastfeeds children not her own

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web
The boy’s childhood was spent first with a wet nurse and later at a number of boarding schools in Switzerland and Italy. Joan Acocella, The New Yorker, 10 Oct. 2022 One is Ina, a blind and aged wet nurse who lived in a cave for decades. New York Times, 13 June 2022 Stephanie Kresta, a 35-year-old mother of five in Houston, is one of dozens of people who have publicly posted to Facebook offering to wet nurse for other babies, should parents face such dire need. Eleanor Cummins, The New Republic, 26 May 2022 Among several biblical references, the pharaoh’s daughter hires a wet nurse to feed baby Moses. David Reamer, Anchorage Daily News, 22 May 2022 The child was whisked off to a wet nurse in the countryside; Montesano married another woman, and Montessori, finding proximity to her ex-lover unbearable, resigned her position at the school. Jessica Winter, The New Yorker, 3 Mar. 2022 Teffi focuses on the servants who made such estates possible, especially the nyanya, a recurring figure typically hired first as a wet nurse and then as the general custodian of the children. Sara Wheeler, WSJ, 23 Apr. 2021 Lina and Oviedo are happy with their twins, but Lina is struggling to produce milk, necessitating a wet nurse. Maureen Lee Lenker, EW.com, 26 Oct. 2020 Other photos in Castillo’s ersatz work, paired with quotes (as in the official passport), include a Japanese American incarceration camp, migrant farmworkers, cotton pickers as well as enslaved African American wet nurses and nannies. R. Daniel Foster, Los Angeles Times, 16 Apr. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'wet-nurse.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

First Known Use


1784, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1620, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of wet-nurse was in 1620

Dictionary Entries Near wet-nurse

Cite this Entry

“Wet-nurse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wet-nurse. Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Medical Definition

wet nurse


: a woman who cares for and breastfeeds young not her own

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