Printable Version
Pronunciation: fee-têr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A stench, an unpleasant or offensive odor.

Notes: You may correctly chide anyone you see spell this word foetor; the only correct spelling is fetor. This word is the noun from the adjective fetid "smelly, stinky", which may be used as an adverb, fetidly, should you ever need a word meaning "stinkily".

Word History: Many dictionaries list foetor as an acceptable alternate spelling of today's Good Word. The Oxford English Dictionary, however, makes it clear that this is incorrect. It probably results from a confusion of this word and its adjective, fetid, with foetus, widely used in the United Kingdom. But these two words have nothing to do with each other; their similarity is purely coincidental. Fetus comes from a root meaning "to give birth, to grow" and meant "offspring" in Latin. The OE spelling was old even in Latin; by the classical period even this word was spelled with a simple E. (We wouldn't want to raise a fetor here by forgetting to thank Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira, one of the long-time editors of this series, for today's Good Word suggestion; so let me say a double "thank you" right here.)

Dr. Goodword,

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