early 15c., "apply hot liquids," from Old French fomenter "apply hot compress (to a wound)" (13c.), from Late Latin fomentare, from Latin fomentum "warm application, poultice," contraction of *fovimentum, from fovere "to warm; cherish, encourage" (see fever). Extended sense of "stimulate, instigate" (1620s), on the notion of "encourage the growth of," as if by heat, probably was taken from French. Related: Fomented; fomenting.
updated on December 15, 2014