Definition of fester in US English:



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  • 1(of a wound or sore) become septic; suppurate.

    ‘I developed a tropical sore that festered badly’
    • ‘People generally try to avoid brown recluse spiders because their bites fester into painful sores.’
    • ‘The open sores had been festering unnoticed and to this, he applied some poultices.’
    • ‘Her only hope now was that he might yet die a slow death if the wound festered.’
    • ‘From what I could see in the darkness his flesh was purple and soaked with dried blood under his clothes, and some of the wounds were festering.’
    • ‘Musket balls tear through their flesh; gaping wounds ooze and fester.’
    • ‘Its body was covered in festering sores, oozing revolting yellowish pus.’
    • ‘If you allow a small sore like this to fester, it could become a major malady.’
    • ‘Where open wounds festered, the flies were so thick as to make the wound seem to be a writhing metallic black mass.’
    • ‘Otherwise, new injuries will continue to be inflicted everyday, while the old wounds fester.’
    • ‘Sores festered on her face and arms and a terrible stench clung to the air surrounding her.’
    • ‘They have never seen leprosy or festering abscesses or sores that do not heal.’
    • ‘A priest saw him right away, and the wounds did not fester.’
    • ‘By then the wound had festered and gangrene was starting to set in.’
    • ‘Some of the villagers also suffered from festering sores caused by the pollution.’
    • ‘Clearly this was a sore that had been festering for some time.’
    • ‘Something had bitten him in the leg, and the wound had festered - it had opened up all the way to the bone.’
    • ‘Stomach wounds fester and kill slowly if they don't kill quickly.’
    • ‘The 13 year-old suffered from serious skin ulcers on his right knee and the wound festered upward to his thigh.’
    • ‘When we brought you in here, the wounds were infected and festering.’
    • ‘Burstyn's pills lead her to delusion and madness; Leto's arm festers with an infected sore from too many needles.’
    suppurate, become septic, form pus, secrete pus, discharge, run, weep, ooze
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    1. 1.1 (of food or garbage) become rotten and offensive to the senses.
      ‘a gully full of garbage that festered in the shade’
      • ‘I stashed my shoes in the cubicles outside; in a Japanese bathhouse, street shoes are regarded with a disdain reserved in the West for biological refuse or festering rubbish.’
      • ‘I clasped my nose shut with my fingers and tried to breathe through my mouth, but the smell of rotten eggs and festering garbage was so awful I gave up, and jabbed the button to open the doors in sheer desperation.’
      • ‘I looked in the sink the next day and here's this festering pile of mince meat.’
      • ‘That could mean only one thing; a cruddy cream doughnut festering beneath the surface.’
      • ‘Fears about festering bags of rubbish behind the store and an increase in traffic in the quiet cul-de-sac are the main reasons for the objection.’
      • ‘It was populated by festering drifts of trash, with large dumpsters rising out of the junk like weird islands, and a few old-fashioned tin trashcans here and there.’
      • ‘For most of us, checking labels is a thing we do before we throw out food that has been festering in the kitchen, long past its sell-by-date.’
      • ‘The uneven pavement was constructed of badly cracked flagstones and potholed by menacing holes where black water festered from past rain showers.’
      • ‘Papers were still in their racks, teas and coffees festered on the bar.’
      • ‘I can assure readers that a piece of spaghetti that has festered in the bottom of a sink for 24 hours looks much the same.’
      • ‘Away from the gleaming skyscrapers, China's cities are ringed by run-down shacks, with festering heaps of garbage by the roadside.’
      • ‘Every year, this mountain of festering garbage gets bigger.’
      • ‘She lifts up the gray carpet and finds the steak, festering away.’
      • ‘Weeks after the grand fête, the garbage generated festers in an illegal dump strewn along the Troumassee river bank.’
      • ‘Plates of baked beans on toast were festering near piles of unfinished homework on the dust covered desk.’
      • ‘You and your friends may not mind empties on the counter, pizza boxes growing mould and dishes festering in the kitchen and bathroom sinks and of course the bathtub, but it may be hazardous to your health.’
      • ‘Tony Millard, who owns Tone's Bar in London Road, North Cheam, told the Comet huge piles of festering rubbish were building up behind his bar each week because the council had not provided enough waste bins.’
      • ‘I couldn't even see a collection of mouldy teacups festering on the new wooden floor.’
      • ‘But for almost a month now it's been covered with these festering piles of garbage.’
      • ‘I tipped my chair backwards so that I could dump my pan onto the pile of dishes festering in the sink.’
      rot, moulder, decay, decompose, putrefy, go bad, go off, perish, spoil, deteriorate, disintegrate, degrade, break down, break up
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    2. 1.2 (of a negative feeling or a problem) become worse or more intense, especially through long-term neglect or indifference.
      ‘anger which festers and grows in his heart’
      • ‘The threat may ultimately have less to do with competitive fire than with a readiness to let resentments fester and anger flare without feeling any need to bridle emotions or discipline his temper.’
      • ‘But by ignoring the problems now festering in the heartland, Congress and the White House will end up diluting the fiscal stimulus over which they are battling so hard.’
      • ‘Yet, dismayingly, the Government retracted many of these commitments this week - and the numbers problem festers on.’
      • ‘It merely bought time, while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold.’
      • ‘But why has the Lebanese government let this problem fester?’
      • ‘While she battles the terrorist monsters, economic problems have festered.’
      • ‘Nevertheless, to ensure that there are no problems still festering, it is our intention to carry out a final audit of the equipment prior to expiry of the warranty agreement.’
      • ‘Social problems have festered, as reflected in the 45 million Americans without health insurance, the decay of the public schools and the growth of hunger and homelessness.’
      • ‘Which is to say, the problem has festered for so long that it is big, and effective responses won't be cheap in the short run.’
      • ‘After a six-week period, during which the problem simply festered, the company brought in a crew of scab miners.’
      • ‘Despite these benefits, numerous problems festered beneath the surface.’
      • ‘And while the Fed bides time, the problem only festers.’
      • ‘Their feelings festered until, six years later, it blew up spectacularly before the World Cup.’
      • ‘But the longer the recovery lasted, the more the problems festered.’
      • ‘Peace throughout the region will never exist while the Palestinian problem festers.’
      • ‘I think I am going to let the problem fester until then.’
      • ‘Or is it more likely a case of increased recognition of the harsh reality that acute financial problems are festering beneath the surface of the U.S. and global Credit systems?’
      • ‘Sinclair's likely departure will raise further questions about how last week's shake-up was handled and what long-term dissatisfaction may fester among others who lost out.’
      • ‘Without freedom of the press, such problems will only fester, and that is not in the long-term interest of the United States.’
      • ‘For three days Charles remained locked up, his feelings festering and burning inside him.’
      rankle, chafe, gnaw, gnaw at one's mind, eat away at one's mind, ferment, brew, smoulder
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    3. 1.3 (of a person) undergo physical and mental deterioration in isolated inactivity.
      ‘I might be festering in jail now’
      • ‘The US then installed and consistently backed the Shah, who proceeded to abuse systematically human rights, to suppress all political activity and to enrich his cronies while his people festered in sprawling urban slums.’
      • ‘In fact the evidence hints that they are as coolly fuzzy as ever, bands like this don't go away they just fester and get better in the process.’
      • ‘If they had listened to the opponents of the war, they would still be festering in that shack.’
      • ‘It has been more than a month since that half-point loss to the league's top team, and you're still festering.’


Late Middle English: from the rare word fester ‘fistula’, later ‘festering sore’, or Old French festrir (verb), both from Old French festre (noun), from Latin fistula ‘pipe, reed, fistula’.