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An illustration of a fomentation or poultice (sense 2) applied to the wrist

From Middle English fōmentāciǒun (act of fomenting; lotion or poultice applied to a diseased part of the body), from Late Latin fōmentātiō, fōmentātiōnem, from fōmentāre[1] (from fōmentum (lotion; compress, poultice; warm application; fomentation), from foveō (to warm, keep warm; to cherish, nurture; to bathe, foment),[2] ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *dʰegʷʰ- (to burn; warm, hot)) + -ātiō, -ātiōnem (suffix forming a noun relating to some action or the result of an action); analysable as foment +‎ -ation.


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fomentation (plural fomentations)

  1. The act of fomenting; the application of warm, soft, medicinal substances, as for the purpose of easing pain by relaxing the skin, or of discussing (dispersing) tumours.
    • 1827 May 1, “XXVI. Spreading Ulcer of the Nose.”, in James Copland, John Darwall, and John Conolly, editors, The London Medical Repository and Review, volume XXVII, number 161 (New Series, volume IV, number XXIII), London: Printed for Thomas and John Underwood, 32 Fleet Street, OCLC 874893197, page 465:
      Twenty leeches were ordered to be applied round the nose every two days; frequent emollient fomentations; the local vapour bath; general bathing; stimulating pedilavia; a strict regimen; vegetables, milk, white meats; demulcent or acidulated drinks; avoidance of exposure to the sun or to cold air; flannel waistcoat and trousers. This treatment, being strictly observed for two months, caused all the inflammatory symptoms to disappear, []
    • 1849 August, “Symptoms of Disease and Treatment. Hydropathic Treatment Proper for the Debilitated.”, in The Journal of Health: A Monthly Magazine, Devoted to the Illustration and Advocacy of the True Principles of Health and Longevity, volume II, number XIII, London: Ward & Co.; Glasgow: George Gallie, 99, Buchanan Street; H. Nisbet, 142, Trongate; Edinburgh: A. Muirhead, 29, Nicolson Street, published 1850, OCLC 36774440, page 70, column 2:
      We have already spoken of the great utility of hot fomentation to the stomach and bowels, as a means of relieving intense suffering in any internal organ of the body, or in the extremities.
    • 1986, Bhagwan Dash, “Pārada (Mercury)”, in Alchemy and Metallic Medicines in Ayurveda, New Delhi: Ashok Kumar Mittal, Concept Publishing Company, published 2003, →ISBN, page 58:
      Keeping bhūjra patra or banana leaf above the fourfold cloth is essential. Apart from their attributes to help in this chemical process, they prevent the fall of mercury from the paste through the cloth into the bottom of the pot of dolā yantra. If during fomentation mercury penetrates through the layer of paste then it will remain above the layer of leaf placed over the cloth, thus permitting the intended chemical action to continue.
  2. A lotion or poultice applied to a diseased or injured part of the body.
    • 1580, Leonardo Phioravanti [i.e., Leonardo Fioravanti]; Iohn Hester, transl., “A Cure of Vlcera Putrida, the which was in the Arme”, in A Short Discours of the Excellent Doctour and Knight, Maister Leonardo Phioravanti Bolognese vppon Chirurgerie. VVith a Declaration of Many Thinges, Necessarie to be Knowne, Neuer Written before in this Order: Wherevnto is Added a Number of Notable Secretes, Found Out by the Saide Author. Translated our of Italyan into English, by Iohn Hester, Practicioner in the Arte of Distillation, London: Imprinted at London by Thomas East, OCLC 84748914, folio 37, recto:
      [] I purged him with our Quintaeſſencia Solutiuo, eight dayes together, that being done I made him a fomentation, that cauſed him to ſweate well, and to ſpitte aboundaunce, []
    • 1635, James Guillimeau [i.e., Jacques Guillemeau], “Of Gripings and Fretting in the Belly, which Trouble Little Children”, in The Nvrsing of Children. Wherein is Set Downe the Ordering and Government of Them from Their Birth. Together with the Meanes to Helpe and Free Them from All Such Diseases as may Happen unto Them. Written in French by Iames Guillimeau, the French Kings Chirurgion in Ordinary, London: Printed by Anne Griffin, for Ioyce Norton, and Richard Whitaker; published in Child-birth, or, The Happy Delivery of VVomen. VVherein is Set Downe the Government of Women. In the Time of Their Breeding Childe: Of Their Travaile, both Naturall and Contrary to Nature: And of Their Lying in. Together with the Diseases, which Happen to VVomen in Those Times, and the Meanes to Helpe Them. To which is Added, a Treatise of the Diseases of Infants, and Young Children: With the Cure of Them, and also of the Small Pox. With a Treatise for the Nursing of Children. Written in French by Iames Gvillimeav the French Kings Chirurgion, London: Printed by Anne Griffith, for Ioyce Norton, and Richard Whitaker, 1635, OCLC 222413128, page 52:
      If too much milke be the cauſe, then the Nurſe ſhall not give the childe ſucke ſo often, nor in ſuch plenty: If it proceed from wind, and that doe cauſe the childe to be thus troubled, it ſhall be diſcuſſed with Fomentations applied to the belly and navell; and with Carminative Cliſters, which ſhall bee given him, []
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, “Containing the Great Address of the Landlady; the Great Learning of a Surgeon, and the Solid Skill in Casuistry of the Worthy Lieutenant”, in The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. In Six Volumes, volume III, London: Printed by A[ndrew] Millar, [], OCLC 928184292, book VII, page 110:
      I then applied a Fomentation to the Part, which highly anſwered the Intention; and after three or four Times dreſſing, the Wound began to diſcharge a thick Pus or Matter, []
    • 1934 December, Hubert Bunyea; W. T. Miller, “[Diseases and Conditions Affecting the Udder.] Abscess.”, in Udder Diseases of Dairy Cows (U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers' Bulletin; no. 1422), Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, published 1935, OCLC 15797543, page 7:
      The abscess may be hastened to a head by hot fomentations or poultices. It is then ready to be opened and drained.
  3. Encouragement; excitation; instigation.
    • 1678, [Guido] Bentivoglio; Henry, Earl of Monmouth [i.e., Henry Carey, 2nd Earl of Monmouth], The History of the Warrs of Flanders: Written in Italian by that Learned and Famous Cardinal Bentivoglio; Englished by the Right Honorable Henry Earl of Monmouth. The Whole Work now Illustrated with a Map of the Seventeen Provinces, and above Twenty Figures of the Chief Personages Mentioned in this History, London: Printed for D. Newman, T. Cockerill, S. Heyrick, C. Smith, and J. Edwin, OCLC 160180899, book X, page 153:
      [T]he Catholick King complained very much thereof, upbraiding the moſt Chriſtian King how ill this did correſpond to the ſo many aſſiſtances which were given by Spain to France ſince that from thence ſo great a fomentation was now preparing to his Rebels in Flanders.
    • 1802 September 30, James Sylvanus McLean, “From James Sylvanus McLean [letter]”, in Thomas Jefferson; Barbara B. Oberg, editor, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, volume 38 (July to November 1802), Princeton, N.J.; Woodstock, Oxfordshire: Princeton University Press, published 2011, →ISBN, page 431:
      [I]n remote situations, physical and moral phenomena being divested of adventitious attractions, and presented to the mind in their true colours and real relations, are likely to attract its energies in proportion to their importance: at least, in this medium, many objects almost invisible in a more luminous and diversified scene, are seen so large, as compleatly to conceal some of these which with a little fomentation excite the most ardent popular attention— []
    • 1982, George Philip, “Introduction: The Politics of Oil in Twentieth-century Latin America”, in Oil and Politics in Latin America (Cambridge Latin American Studies; 40), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, →ISBN, page 1:
      In the popular imagination, and not only there, the progressive and beneficial side of the oil industry [] has been tied in inextricably with a darker side which has featured massive corruption, the fomentation of political upheavals within particular countries and the concentration of power on an international scale in a way which has led to large-scale but unpredictable shifts in the structure of the world oil system.


Related terms[edit]