or fet·ich

[ fet-ish, fee-tish ]
/ ˈfɛt ɪʃ, ˈfi tɪʃ /
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an object regarded with awe as being the embodiment or habitation of a potent spirit or as having magical potency.
any object, idea, etc., eliciting unquestioning reverence, respect, or devotion: to make a fetish of high grades.
Psychology. any object or nongenital part of the body that causes a habitual erotic response or fixation.
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Origin of fetish

1605–15; earlier fateish<Portuguese feitiço charm, sorcery (noun), artificial (adj.) <Latin factīciusfactitious; replacing fatisso, fetisso<Portuguese, as above


fet·ish·like, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is a fetish?

The word fetish is used in the context of some religions to refer to an object believed to have supernatural power or to contain a spirit, especially an object that has been created, such as a small carving or sculpture.

Practitioners of such religions mayuse fetishes during religious ceremonies or as charms during other activities, such as hunting. They are treated with reverence due to the belief that they contain a spirit or have a special magical power.

Example: The shaman began the ceremony by placing the fetish on the altar. 

Based on this sense, fetish can also be used in a more general way to refer to something that is obsessed over or treated with devotion, as in a fetish for collecting fine wine.

The word fetish is also commonly used to refer to nonsexual things or body parts that cause sexual arousal, as in I have a fetish for glasses. Often, another word is used to specify a person’s sexual fetish, as in foot fetish or food fetish.

Where does fetish come from?

The first records of the word fetish come from the early 1600s. It ultimately comes from the Latin factīcius, meaning “factitious” or “artificial.”

Not all religious objects are referred to as fetishes. This is especially the case for religions whose members do not believe that objects themselves contain spiritual power. In fact, some religions prohibit the use or treatment of objects in this way, referring to such practices as idolatry.

The sexual sense of the word fetish is commonly used in relation to personal sexual preferences and in the context of graphic sexual content. Fetishes thought to be particularly uncommon are sometimes referred to as kinks.

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What are some other forms related to fetish?

What are some synonyms for fetish?

What are some words that share a root or word element with fetish

What are some words that often get used in discussing fetish?

How is fetish used in real life?

The word fetish is most commonly used in a sexual context.

How to use fetish in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for fetish



/ (ˈfɛtɪʃ, ˈfiːtɪʃ) /

something, esp an inanimate object, that is believed in certain cultures to be the embodiment or habitation of a spirit or magical powers
  1. a form of behaviour involving fetishism
  2. any object that is involved in fetishism
any object, activity, etc, to which one is excessively or irrationally devotedto make a fetish of cleanliness

Derived forms of fetish

fetish-like or fetich-like, adjective

Word Origin for fetish

C17: from French fétiche, from Portuguese feitiço (n) sorcery, from adj: artificial, from Latin factīcius made by art, factitious
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

Cultural definitions for fetish


An object believed to carry a magical or spiritual force. Some so-called primitive tribes practice cult worship of fetishes. (See animism (see also animism) and totemism.)

notes for fetish

Figuratively, a “fetish” is any object that arouses excessive devotion: “Lucille made a fetish of her Porsche.”
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.