fe·​tish ˈfe-tish How to pronounce fetish (audio)
ˈfē- How to pronounce fetish (audio)
variants or less commonly fetich
: an object (such as a small stone carving of an animal) believed to have magical power to protect or aid its owner
broadly : a material object regarded with superstitious or extravagant trust or reverence
: an object of irrational reverence or obsessive devotion : prepossession
: an object or bodily part whose real or fantasied presence is psychologically necessary for sexual gratification and that is an object of fixation to the extent that it may interfere with complete sexual expression
: a rite or cult of fetish worshippers

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A Brief History of Fetish

When fetish first appeared in English in the early 17th century, it referred to objects (often amulets) believed by certain West Africans to have supernatural powers. During the 19th century, the word took on a broader meaning: "an object of irrational devotion or reverence." The object need not be physical: a person may have a fetish for an idea, such as an unwarranted belief that a particular economic system will solve society’s ills. By the early 20th century, fetish took on yet another meaning quite distinct from its antecedents: a sexualized desire for an object (such as a shoe) or for a body part that is not directly related to the reproductive act (such as an earlobe).

Examples of fetish in a Sentence

He has a fetish for secrecy. He wore a fetish to ward off evil spirits.
Recent Examples on the Web The store sources their fetishes directly from the Zuni people, which is important. Seret and Sons, a store by the same family behind Inn of the Five Graces, carries an extensive collection of pieces that the family collects while traveling. Alexandra Malmed, Vogue, 8 Nov. 2023 There's been some weird requests in terms of fetishes and that kind of thing. Maureen Lee Lenker, EW.com, 30 Sep. 2023 However, the ad became the brunt of social media jokes about foot fetishes, perhaps not the intended goal of the ad. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, 12 Feb. 2024 The two navels are aligned, representing an Olmec umbilical-cord fetish. Brian T. Allen, National Review, 1 Feb. 2024 Grand Theft Auto has an understandable gun fetish, but Like a Dragon’s fighting is through hand-to-hand combat, a reflection of Japan’s nearly gun-free society. Brian Feldman, New York Times, 23 Jan. 2024 Whoopi Goldberg needed a breather when the conversation turned to foot fetishes on The View. Stephanie Wenger, Peoplemag, 10 Jan. 2024 When David Hyde Pierce arrives on the scene in the campy regalia of a bishop who has a fetish for ladies’ footwear and serious qualms about his career choice, the exuberance in the house surges audibly. Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times, 11 Dec. 2023 Danilo Restivo, an Italian who moved to Bournemouth and was known by police to have a fetish for cutting girls’ hair, has been found guilty of both murders. Nick Vivarelli, Variety, 12 Oct. 2023

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

Word History


French & Portuguese; French fétiche, from Portuguese feitiço, from feitiço artificial, false, from Latin facticius factitious

First Known Use

1613, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of fetish was in 1613

Dictionary Entries Near fetish

Cite this Entry

“Fetish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fetish. Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


variants also fetich
ˈfet-ish How to pronounce fetish (audio)
 also  ˈfēt-
: an object (as an idol or image) believed to have supernatural or magical powers
: an object of unreasonable devotion or concern

Medical Definition


variants also fetich
ˈfet-ish also ˈfēt-
: an object or bodily part whose real or fantasized presence is psychologically necessary for sexual gratification and that is an object of fixation to the extent that it may interfere with complete sexual expression

More from Merriam-Webster on fetish

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