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verb (used without object)
  1. to form pus; generate purulent matter; suppurate.
  2. to cause ulceration, as a foreign body in the flesh.
  3. to putrefy or rot.
  4. to rankle, as a feeling of resentment.
verb (used with object)
  1. to cause to rankle: Malice festered his spirit.
  1. an ulcer; a rankling sore.
  2. a small, purulent, superficial sore.

Origin of fester

1350–1400; (noun) Middle English festir, festre < Anglo-French, Old French festre < Latin fistula fistula (for -l- > -r- cf. chapter); (v.) Middle English festryn, derivative of the noun or < Old French festrir
Related formsun·fes·tered, adjectiveun·fes·ter·ing, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for fester


  1. to form or cause to form pus
  2. (intr) to become rotten; decay
  3. to become or cause to become bitter, irritated, etc, esp over a long period of time; rankleresentment festered his imagination
  4. (intr) informal to be idle or inactive
  1. a small ulcer or sore containing pus

Word Origin for fester

C13: from Old French festre suppurating sore, from Latin: fistula
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 fester

late 14c., from Old French festre "small sore discharging pus," from Latin fistula "pipe, ulcer" (see fistula). The noun is from c.1300. Related: Festered; festering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

fester in Medicine


  1. To ulcerate.
  2. To form pus; putrefy.
  1. An ulcer.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.