1 : to generate pus
3 a : to cause increasing poisoning, irritation, or bitterness : rankle
b : to undergo or exist in a state of progressive deterioration
Did You Know?
Fester entered English in the 14th century. It was used as we now use the word fistula for an abnormal passage leading from an abscess or hollow organ and permitting passage of fluids or secretions. It was also applied as a word for a sore that discharges pus. The connection between fester and fistula is no accident—both descend from Latin fistula, which has the same meaning as the English word but can also mean "pipe" or "tube" or "a kind of ulcer." Fester made the trip from Latin to English by way of Anglo-French. The word's use as a verb meaning "to generate pus" has also developed extended senses implying a worsening state.
"For more than a generation, instead of forging a path to reconciliation, we have allowed the wounds the war inflicted on our nation, our politics and our families to fester." — Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, The New York Times, 29 May 2017
"Tunisians have made tremendous progress. Yet their experiment is teetering on the brink. The economy is stuck in the doldrums. Poverty and corruption fester." — Christian Caryl, The Washington Post, 26 May 2017
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
Fill in the blanks to complete a synonym of fester meaning "to form pus": s _ _ p _ r _ te.VIEW THE ANSWER
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP