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[kang-ker] /ˈkæŋ kər/
a gangrenous or ulcerous sore, especially in the mouth.
a disease affecting horses' feet, usually the soles, characterized by a foul-smelling exudate.
a defined area of diseased tissue, especially in woody stems.
something that corrodes, corrupts, destroys, or irritates.
Also called canker rose. British Dialect. dog rose.
verb (used with object)
to infect with canker.
to corrupt; destroy slowly.
verb (used without object)
to become infected with or as if with canker.
Origin of canker
before 1000; Middle English; Old English cancer < Latin cancer; see cancer
4. blight, cancer, scourge. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for canker
Historical Examples
  • It is very unworthy, I am afraid, but it is a canker that is eating my heart out.

  • I had rather be a canker in a hedge, than a rose in the grave.

  • The surface of the canker is black and rough and covered with minute black pimples.

    Apple Growing M. C. Burritt
  • canker was too much astonished by such directness to make any reply.

    Marion's Faith. Charles King
  • The cheer is renewed by canker's men, yelling and hat waving at the heels of the herd.

    Under Fire Charles King
  • It was a bitter pill to have to go down and consult with canker, but he did not know what else to do.

    Under Fire Charles King
  • Beware of the little beginnings which 'eat as doth a canker.'

    Expositions of Holy Scripture

    Alexander Maclaren
  • But the atrophy of responsibility proved the canker at the heart of the Empire.

  • This covetousness is like canker, that eats the iron place where it lives.

  • No wonder, no wonder, that like a canker it had eaten into his heart.

    How It All Came Round L. T. Meade
British Dictionary definitions for canker


an ulceration, esp of the lips or lining of the oral cavity
(vet science)
  1. a disease of horses in which the horn of the hoofs becomes soft and spongy
  2. an inflammation of the lining of the external ear, esp in dogs and cats, resulting in a discharge and sometimes ulceration
  3. ulceration or abscess of the mouth, eyelids, ears, or cloaca of birds
an open wound in the stem of a tree or shrub, caused by injury or parasites
something evil that spreads and corrupts
to infect or become infected with or as if with canker
Word Origin
Old English cancer, from Latin cancer crab, cancerous sore
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for canker

late Old English cancer "spreading ulcer, cancerous tumor," from Latin cancer "malignant tumor," literally "crab" (see cancer); influenced in Middle English by Old North French cancre "canker, sore, abscess" (Old French chancre, Modern French chancre). The word was the common one for "cancer" until c.1700. Also used since 15c. of caterpillars and insect larvae that eat plant buds and leaves. As a verb from late 14c. Related: Cankered; cankerous. Canker blossom is recorded from 1580s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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canker in Medicine

canker can·ker (kāng'kər)

  1. Ulceration of the mouth and lips.

  2. An acute inflammation or infection of the ear and auditory canal, especially in dogs and cats.

  3. Cancrum.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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