Definition: Smelling extremely unpleasant or foul.

Pronunciation: Feh-tihd


The word fetid derives directly from the Latin adjective fetidus meaning “bad smelling, stinking”.  Fetidus comes from the Latin verb fetere meaning “to have a bad smell, stink”.  It made the transition to English in the early 15th century.

Why this word?

Why not this word?  Despite the fact that it sounds similar to the word feted, it bears absolutely no similarity in meaning to that word.  And who has never had cause to comment on a fetid breath of air?  I know, having a toddler, that there are multiple times a day when I have cause to use the word.  From diapers, to crackers long hidden and decayed (no comments on my housekeeping, please), to the occasional instance of vomit, I would be able to use this word many times a day.  I imagine, from anecdotal reports, that the parents of teenagers, especially boys, would also be able to use this word daily.

How to use the word fetid?

“The gentle wind coming from the river brought with it the fetid stench of dead fish and sadness.”

“The fetid smell of his breath was all the encouragement she needed to make her apologies and leave.”

“The fetid aroma emanating from the deep hole in the ground made it clear that the contents were unpleasant, to say the least.”


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Written by Kate Fulton

Kate Fulton has a bachelor’s degree in classics and psychology from the University of Massachusetts and is working on a library science degree from Simmons College. She has always been fascinated by words- their usage, spelling, and etymology. Kate may be one of the few people who enjoyed the verbal section of the SAT. Yes, she is a word geek. Currently she bores her husband and young daughter with her love of vocabulary.


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