Printable Version
Pronunciation: fo-ment Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To warm to promote healing or to bathe in a warm, healing lotion. 2. To promote growth, to stimulate or encourage.

Notes: I have heard this word used as a synonym of instigate or incite, but remember that its meaning is much milder, only to encourage or promote; though the implication is a persistent prodding rather than a sudden rally. You will hear the accent on the first syllable of this word in the US, but most dictionaries agree that it should fall on the second.

In Play: I'll bet many of you reading this have fomented a swollen ankle or twisted knee without realizing you were doing so: "I foment my pulled tendons with a poultice of scotch and vanilla ice cream." I suspect drinking and eating them would produce better results. Just keep in mind that foment refers to a milder, more lingering form of encouragement than instigate or incite: "Dewey Rose a revolutionary?! He might foment the growth of his petunias with fertilizer, but nothing more militant than that."

Word History: This Good Word was copped from Old French fomenter, from Late Latin fomentare, a verb based on fomentum "poultice". Fomentum is a reduction of an earlier word fovimentum, derived from fovere "to cherish", earlier "to warm". The root of this Latin verb came from a Proto-Indo-European root dhegh- "to burn", maybe "to shine", since it fits as a source of German Tag "day" and English day. It also shows up in Sanskrit dah "to burn" and Lithuanian dagas "hot season, summer." So why does the Latin word begin with an F rather than a D? At the beginning of words, the sounds [bh], [dh], [gh] converted to [f] in Latin. We see the same change in Latin fornax "oven" and English burn; both go back to a PIE word beginning in [bh].

Dr. Goodword,

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