Etymology 1Edit

The verb is derived from Middle English fecchen (to get and bring back, fetch; to come for, get and take away; to steal; to carry away to kill; to search for; to obtain, procure)  [and other forms],[1] from Old English feċċan, fæċċan, feccean (to fetch, bring; to draw; to gain, take; to seek), a variant of fetian, fatian (to bring near, fetch; to acquire, obtain; to bring on, induce; to fetch a wife, marry)[2] and possibly related to Old English facian, fācian (to acquire, obtain; to try to obtain; to get; to get to, reach), both from Proto-Germanic *fatōną, *fatjaną (to hold, seize; to fetch), from Proto-Indo-European *ped- (to step, walk; to fall, stumble). The English word is cognate with Dutch vatten (to apprehend, catch; to grasp; to understand), English fet ((obsolete) to fetch), Faroese fata (to grasp, understand), Swedish fatta (to grasp, understand), German fassen (to catch, grasp; to capture, seize), Icelandic feta (to go, step), West Frisian fetsje (to grasp).

The noun is derived from the verb.[3]


fetch (third-person singular simple present fetches, present participle fetching, simple past and past participle fetched)

  1. To retrieve; to bear towards; to go and get.
    • 1611 King James Bible, 1 Kings xvii. 11, 12
      He called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.
    • 1908, Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
      When they got home, the Rat made a bright fire in the parlour, and planted the Mole in an arm-chair in front of it, having fetched down a dressing-gown and slippers for him, and told him river stories till supper-time.
  2. To obtain as price or equivalent; to sell for.
    • 1849–1861, Thomas Babington Macaulay, chapter 3, in The History of England from the Accession of James the Second, volume (please specify |volume=I to V), London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, OCLC 1069526323:
      Our native horses [] were held in small esteem, and fetched low prices.
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 3, in Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      My hopes wa'n't disappointed. I never saw clams thicker than they was along them inshore flats. I filled my dreener in no time, and then it come to me that 'twouldn't be a bad idee to get a lot more, take 'em with me to Wellmouth, and peddle 'em out. Clams was fairly scarce over that side of the bay and ought to fetch a fair price.
    • 2013 August 3, “Yesterday’s fuel”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8847:
      The dawn of the oil age was fairly recent. Although the stuff was used to waterproof boats in the Middle East 6,000 years ago, extracting it in earnest began only in 1859 after an oil strike in Pennsylvania. The first barrels of crude fetched $18 (around $450 at today’s prices).
    If you put some new tyres on it, and clean it up a bit, the car should fetch about $5,000
  3. (nautical) To bring or get within reach by going; to reach; to arrive at; to attain; to reach by sailing.
    to fetch headway or sternway
  4. (intransitive) To bring oneself; to make headway; to veer; as, to fetch about; to fetch to windward.
  5. (rare, literary) To take (a breath), to heave (a sigh)
  6. To cause to come; to bring to a particular state.
    • 1879, William Barnes, A Witch
      They couldn't fetch the butter in the churn.
  7. (obsolete) To recall from a swoon; to revive; sometimes with to.
    to fetch a man to
    • 1631, [Francis Bacon], “(please specify |century=I to X)”, in Sylua Syluarum: Or A Naturall Historie. In Ten Centuries. [], 3rd edition, London: [] VVilliam Rawley; [p]rinted by J[ohn] H[aviland] for William Lee [], OCLC 1044372886:
      Fetching men again when they swoon.
  8. To reduce; to throw.
    • 1692, Robert South, sermon 28
      The sudden trip in wrestling that fetches a man to the ground.
  9. (archaic) To accomplish; to achieve; to perform, with certain objects or actions.
    to fetch a compass;  to fetch a leap
  10. (nautical, transitive) To make (a pump) draw water by pouring water into the top and working the handle.


Alternative formsEdit

Derived termsEdit



fetch (plural fetches)

  1. (also figuratively) An act of fetching, of bringing something from a distance.
    1. (computing, specifically) An act of fetching data.
      a fetch from a cache
  2. The object of fetching; the source of an attraction; a force, propensity, or quality which attracts.
  3. A stratagem or trick; an artifice.
    Synonyms: contrivance, dodge
    • 1665, Robert South, "Jesus of Nazareth proved the true and only promised Messiah", in Twelve Sermons Preached Upon Several Occasions, Volume 3, 6th Edition, 1727:
      Every little fetch of wit and criticism.
    • 1748, Samuel Richardson, Clarissa, Letter 29:
      And as to your cant of living single, nobody will believe you. This is one of your fetches to avoid complying with your duty […].



  1. (Utah) Minced oath for fuck

Etymology 2Edit

Origin uncertain; the following possibilities have been suggested:

  • From fetch-life ((obsolete, rare) a deity, spirit, etc., who guides the soul of a dead person to the afterlife; a psychopomp).[4][5]
  • From the supposed Old English *fæcce (evil spirit formerly thought to sit on the chest of a sleeping person; a mare).[4]
  • From Old Irish fáith (seer, soothsayer).[6]


fetch (plural fetches)

  1. (originally Ireland, dialectal) The apparition of a living person; a person's double, the sight of which is supposedly a sign that they are fated to die soon, a doppelganger; a wraith (a person's likeness seen just after their death; a ghost, a spectre). [from 18th c.]
    • 1842 December – 1844 July, Charles Dickens, “The Reader is Brought into Communication with Some Professional Persons, and Sheds a Tear over the Filial Piety of Good Mr. Jonas”, in The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, London: Chapman and Hall, [], published 1844, OCLC 977517776, page 236:
      In these dilapidated articles of dress she had, on principle, arrayed herself, time out of mind, on such occasions as the present; for this at once expressed a decent amount of veneration for the deceased, and invited the next of kin to present her with a fresher set of weeds: an appeal so frequently successful, that the very fetch and ghost of Mrs. Gamp, bonnet and all, might be seen hanging up, at any hour of the day, in at least a dozen of the second-hand clothes shops around Holborn.
    • 1905, Gordon Bottomley, Midsummer Eve, Harting, Petersfield, Hampshire: Pear Tree Press, OCLC 12810083; republished in King Lear’s Wife, The Crier by Night, The Riding to Lithend, Midsummer Eve, Laodice and Danaë: Plays, London: Constable & Company, 1920, OCLC 989162481, page 159:
      I think it was a fetch. [...] Folk say a fetch is seen at its departing / From a cold house whence it shall lead a soul; / But this comes like a child-birth closing in, / And so perchance it does but signify / The consciousness of death that breaks in all.
    • 1921, Sterling Andrus Leonard, “Bibliography of Plays for Reading in High Schools”, in Sterling Andrus Leonard, editor, The Atlantic Book of Modern Plays: [], Boston, Mass.: The Atlantic Monthly Press, OCLC 1154741, page 300:
      Several farm maidservants meet to see their future lovers' spirits on Midsummer Eve, but see only the "fetch" or double of one of them, foretelling her death.
      A summary of Gordon Bottomley’s play Midsummer Eve.

Derived termsEdit



  1. ^ fecchen, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ fetch, v.”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1895; “fetch1, v.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.
  3. ^ fetch, n.1”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1895; “fetch1, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.
  4. 4.0 4.1 fetch, n.2”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1895; “fetch2, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.
  5. ^ † fetch-life, n.”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1895
  6. ^ William Sayers (2017) , “A Hiberno-Norse Etymology for English Fetch: ‘Apparition of a Living Person’”, in ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes and Reviews, volume 30, issue 4, Washington, D.C.: Heldref Publications; Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, DOI:10.1080/0895769X.2017.1336073, ISSN 0895-769X, OCLC 613305589, pages 205–209.

Further readingEdit