1 of 2


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

2 of 2


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

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web
In 1908, on the whim of the Empress Dowager dying under her cracking whitewash makeup, a beguiling 3-year-old is torn away from his mother in the dark of night and taken, with his wet nurse, to China’s most astonishing palace — the 9,999-room Forbidden City. Los Angeles Times, 25 Jan. 2023 Ina accepted their hospitality and found herself soon well employed as the village wet nurse. Ottessa Moshfegh, Harper’s Magazine , 25 May 2022 This would have been impossible without a wet nurse and a supportive husband. Claire Moran, CNN, 20 Dec. 2022 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 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'wet-nurse.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 10 Jun. 2023.

Medical Definition

wet nurse

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

More from Merriam-Webster on wet-nurse

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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