The word ferment means a commotion or excitement. Consider that the fermentation that turns juice or grain into alcohol is the result of the agitated development of bacteria, and then you can better appreciate the word's meaning.

While you might be more familiar with the verb ferment, referring to the natural process that produces alcohol, the word is also used as a noun, giving the same type of boiling emotion to people or events. If you keep in mind that the root of the word is fevere, meaning "to boil or seethe," you get a vivid picture of the ferment experienced at a political rally where tempers run high.

Definitions of ferment
  1. verb
    cause to undergo fermentation
    “We ferment the grapes for a very long time to achieve high alcohol content”
    synonyms: work
    sour, turn, work
    go sour or spoil
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    convert a juice into wine by fermentation
    type of:
    change the nature, purpose, or function of something
  2. verb
    go sour or spoil
    synonyms: sour, turn, work
    cause to undergo fermentation
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    type of:
    change state, turn
    undergo a transformation or a change of position or action
  3. noun
    a process in which an agent causes an organic substance to break down into simpler substances; especially, the anaerobic breakdown of sugar into alcohol
    synonyms: fermentation, fermenting, zymolysis, zymosis
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    bottom fermentation
    a slow kind of alcoholic fermentation at a temperature low enough that the yeast cells can sink to the bottom of the fermenting liquid; used in the production of lager
    top fermentation
    a violent kind of alcoholic fermentation at a temperature high enough to carry the yeast cells to the top of the fermenting liquid; used in the production of ale
    the process whereby fermentation changes grape juice into wine
    type of:
    chemical action, chemical change, chemical process
    (chemistry) any process determined by the atomic and molecular composition and structure of the substances involved
  4. noun
    a substance capable of bringing about fermentation
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    type of:
    a particular kind or species of matter with uniform properties
  5. noun
    a state of agitation or turbulent change or development
    “the political ferment produced new leadership”
    synonyms: agitation, fermentation, tempestuousness, unrest
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    type of:
    Sturm und Drang, turbulence, upheaval
    a state of violent disturbance and disorder (as in politics or social conditions generally)
  6. verb
    be in an agitated or excited state
    “The Middle East is fermenting
    “Her mind ferments
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    type of:
    boil, seethe
    be in an agitated emotional state
  7. verb
    work up into agitation or excitement
    see moresee less
    type of:
    fire up, heat, ignite, inflame, stir up, wake
    arouse or excite feelings and passions
Commonly confused words

ferment / foment

When change is a brewin', remember: to ferment is to cause a chemical change to food or drink, like turning grapes into wine, but to foment is to stir up trouble, like turning a group of people into an angry mob.

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