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See more synonyms for canker on Thesaurus.com
  1. a gangrenous or ulcerous sore, especially in the mouth.
  2. a disease affecting horses' feet, usually the soles, characterized by a foul-smelling exudate.
  3. a defined area of diseased tissue, especially in woody stems.
  4. something that corrodes, corrupts, destroys, or irritates.
  5. Also called canker rose. British Dialect. dog rose.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to infect with canker.
  2. to corrupt; destroy slowly.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to become infected with or as if with canker.
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Origin of canker

before 1000; Middle English; Old English cancer < Latin cancer; see cancer


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


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.

    The Love Affairs of an Old Maid

    Lilian Bell

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for canker


  1. an ulceration, esp of the lips or lining of the oral cavity
  2. 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
  3. an open wound in the stem of a tree or shrub, caused by injury or parasites
  4. something evil that spreads and corrupts
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  1. to infect or become infected with or as if with canker
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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

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

canker in Medicine


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