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From Middle English canker, cancre, from Old English cancer, akin to Dutch kanker, Old High German chanchar. Ultimately from Latin cancer (a cancer). Doublet of cancer, a later borrowing from Latin, and chancre, which came through French.



canker (countable and uncountable, plural cankers)

  1. (phytopathology) A plant disease marked by gradual decay.
  2. A corroding or sloughing ulcer; especially a spreading gangrenous ulcer or collection of ulcers in or about the mouth.
  3. Anything which corrodes, corrupts, or destroys.
    • Temple
      the cankers of envy and faction
  4. A kind of wild rose; the dog rose.
    • Shakespeare
      To put down Richard, that sweet lovely rose, / And plant this thorn, this canker, Bolingbroke.
  5. An obstinate and often incurable disease of a horse's foot, characterized by separation of the horny portion and the development of fungoid growths. Usually resulting from neglected thrush.
  6. An avian disease affecting doves, poultry, parrots and birds of prey, caused by Trichomonas gallinae.


  • (ulcer, especially of the mouth): water canker, canker of the mouth, noma
  • (bird disease): avian trichomoniasis, roup
  • (hawk disease): frounce

Related terms[edit]



canker (third-person singular simple present cankers, present participle cankering, simple past and past participle cankered)

  1. (transitive) To affect as a canker; to eat away; to corrode; to consume.
    • 1849, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam, 26:
      Still onward winds the dreary way; / I with it; for I long to prove / No lapse of moons can canker Love, / Whatever fickle tongues may say.
  2. (transitive) To infect or pollute; to corrupt.
  3. (intransitive) To waste away, grow rusty, or be oxidized, as a mineral.
  4. To be or become diseased, or as if diseased, with canker; to grow corrupt; to become venomous.




Alternative forms[edit]


Middle English canker, cancre, Old English cancer, akin to Dutch kanker, Old High German chanchar. From Latin cancer (a cancer).



canker (plural cankers)

  1. Bad temper.


canker (third-person singular present cankers, present participle cankerin, past cankert, past participle cankert)

  1. (archaic) To become bad-tempered, to fret, to worry.