Definition of canker in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkaNGkər/


1A necrotic, fungal disease of apple and other trees that results in damage to the bark.
Example sentences
  • Activity in the citrus orchards of central Queensland has ground to a halt as the state calls for help to deal with the mammoth task of inspecting trees for the disease canker.
  • It pays to be on the lookout for apple scab, canker and mildew, tackling any problems before they become deeply ingrained and hard to treat.
  • Trees appear to resist bacterial canker but are very susceptible to fire blight.
1.1An open lesion in plant tissue caused by infection or injury.
Example sentences
  • In dry edible beans, anthracnose causes unsightly cankers on plant stems, pods, and seeds.
  • As the infection progresses, trees undergo twig and branch dieback and develop stem cankers, which results in tree-death.
  • He visits other chestnut trees, too, packing mud on their cankers and clipping flowers for use in breeding programs.
1.2Fungal rot in some fruits and vegetables, e.g., parsnips and tomatoes.
2 Medicine An ulcerous condition or disease, in particular.
2.1 (also canker sore) North American A small ulcer of the mouth or lips.
Example sentences
  • This means that you swish the medicine around in your mouth, especially around your canker sore, for a few minutes before swallowing it.
  • Call your doctor if your child's canker sore gets worse.
  • When my husband was a little boy, the doctor told his mom he had a canker sore.
2.2 another term for thrush2 (sense 2).
2.3Ulceration of the throat and other orifices of birds, typically caused by a protozoal infection.
2.4 (also ear canker) Inflammation of the ear of a dog, cat, or rabbit, typically caused by a mite infestation.
Example sentences
  • Be sure to purchase ear canker powder as it has the additional benefit of helping to control canker and ear mites in your Shih Tzu.
  • It promotes healing and dries up the inner ear canker as well as the external areas that may become sore and moist from the canker discharge.
  • Ear mite or ear canker is a very common infection in most rabbitries and is economically important because of the loss of condition and poor reproductive performance that this infestation can cause.
2.5A malign and corrupting influence that is difficult to eradicate: [in singular]: racism remains a canker at the heart of the nation
More example sentences
  • Now the big question is how to curb the canker of corruption and restore much needed probity in public life.
  • ‘That is the canker in the heart of the Conservative Party and that is what sparked the trouble,’ he said
  • For politicians, the overstayer issue is a bit of a canker.


1 [no object] (Of woody plant tissue) become infected with canker: (as noun cankering) we found some cankering of the wood
More example sentences
  • Stems may be girdled just above the soil line; tissue thus damaged may appear cracked or cankered.
  • Many larger trees showed cankered boles and parasite-bloated boughs.
  • Tiny black specks, which are reproductive bodies of the cane blight fungus, develop in the brown cankered bark.
2 [with object] (usually as adjective cankered) Infect with a pervasive and corrupting bitterness: he hated her with a cankered, shameful abhorrence
More example sentences
  • I mean, you know, irony's funny and all, but if all you do is make fun of other things, you get this kind of cankered, empty feeling.
  • I'm a 37-year-old graduate student who's having the usual dating difficulties common among those of us who are old and grey and cankered.
  • Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire.



Pronunciation: /ˈkaNGk(ə)rəs/
Example sentences
  • It sows seeds of guilt and worthlessness in the child, fertile ground for cankerous depression to take root in the adult.
  • He had inspected the dark labyrinth of the Old Brewery, tripping over the inert, inebriated bodies, peeking into miserable closets housing filthy mothers and cankerous children.
  • Every August I determine to do this after I have harvested the fruit, and every year I get cold feet because the memory of the pears is so delicious that I cannot bear to lose them, cankerous or not.


Middle English (denoting a tumor): from Old French chancre, from Latin cancer 'crab' (see cancer).

  • cancer from Old English:

    The pattern of swollen veins around malignant tumours gave them the name cancer because they looked like the limbs of a crab—cancer in Latin. In English canker (Middle English) was the usual form for the disease until the 17th century, when canker became the term for various plant diseases. The medical term carcinoma (early 18th century) comes from karkinos, Greek for ‘crab’.

Words that rhyme with canker

anchor, banker, Bianca, Casablanca, Costa Blanca, flanker, franker, hanker, lingua franca, Lubyanka, rancour (US rancor), ranker, Salamanca, spanker, Sri Lanka, tanka, tanker, up-anchor

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: can·ker

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