noun, often attributive
\ ˈfish \
plural fish or fishes

Definition of fish 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1a : an aquatic animal usually used in combination starfishcuttlefish

b : any of numerous cold-blooded strictly aquatic craniate vertebrates that include the bony fishes and usually the cartilaginous and jawless fishes and that have typically an elongated somewhat spindle-shaped body terminating in a broad caudal (see caudal sense 2) fin, limbs in the form of fins when present at all, and a 2-chambered heart by which blood is sent through thoracic gills to be oxygenated freshwater fish tropical fish

2 : the flesh of fish used as food We're having fish for dinner.

3a : a person who is caught or is wanted (as in a criminal investigation)

b : fellow, person an odd fish

c : sucker sense 5a felt sorry for the poor fish

4 : something that resembles a fish: such as

a Fish or Fishes plural : pisces sense 1 also : pisces sense 2a

b : torpedo sense 1b The submarine's fish hit the freighter.

fish out of water

: a person who is in an unnatural or uncomfortable sphere or situation The country boy felt like a fish out of water in the big city.

fish to fry

: concerns or interests to pursue usually used with other can't deal with that problem now; we've got other fish to fry right now

neither fish nor fowl

: one that does not belong to a particular class or category The movie is neither fish nor fowl—it's not really a comedy, but it's too light-hearted to be called a drama.


fished; fishing; fishes

Definition of fish (Entry 2 of 3)

intransitive verb

1 : to attempt to catch fish

2 : to seek something by roundabout means fishing for a compliment

3a : to search for something underwater fish for pearls

b : to engage in a search by groping or feeling fishing around in her purse for her keys

transitive verb

1a : to try to catch fish in

b : to fish with : use (something, such as a boat, a net, or bait) in fishing

2a : to go fishing for fish salmon

b : to pull or draw as if fishing fished the ball from under the car fish wires through a conduit

fish or cut bait

: to make a choice between alternatives


biographical name
\ ˈfish \

Definition of Fish (Entry 3 of 3)

Hamilton 1808–1893 American statesman

Illustration of fish

Illustration of fish


fish 1b: 1 mandible, 2 nasal opening, 3 eye, 4 cheek, 5 operculum, 6 dorsal fins, 7 lateral line, 8 caudal fin, 9 scales, 10 anal fin, 11 anus, 12 pectoral fin, 13 pelvic fin, 14 maxilla, 15 premaxilla, 16 upper jaw

In the meaning defined above

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Other words from fish


fishless \ˈfish-ləs \ adjective
fishlike \ˈfish-ˌlīk \ adjective


fishability \ˌfi-shə-ˈbi-lə-tē \ noun
fishable \ˈfi-shə-bəl \ adjective

Examples of fish in a Sentence


We're having fish for dinner. he's rather an odd fish


We spent the afternoon fishing for trout. They fished the stream all morning. She was fishing around in her purse for her keys.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

CROIX FALLS - Some anglers like to offer fish something new. Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Smith: Retro outing proves fishing fun - and gear - is timeless," 14 July 2018 As for food, Mester has been developing pates, fish entrees, soups and salads along with other signature French dishes, although the menu will reflect a variety of cultures. Anna Muckerman,, "European-style cafe and wine bar coming to Station North," 13 July 2018 Those fish contained more nitrogen and grew larger. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Coral Reefs Need Fewer Rats and More Bird Poo," 12 July 2018 Previous mosaics discovered at Huqoq include depictions of Samson, Noah’s Ark and Jonah being swallowed by three successive fish. James Rogers, Fox News, "Stunning biblical 'spies' mosaic discovered in Israel," 12 July 2018 That is, until researchers discovered ancient whale bones within the ruins of a fish-processing site in the ancient Roman city of Baelo Claudia, near today’s Tarifa, Spain. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "Scientists admit Pliny the Elder was right about orcas and whales.," 11 July 2018 James's championship in Cleveland is forever, but the charm of his return is gone, replaced by new expectation in L.A. Basketball's biggest fish has entered the aquarium. Lee Jenkins,, "Fit For The King: LeBron James and the Lakers Form Hollywood's Ultimate Marriage," 11 July 2018 More broadly, Gawande will have to learn to manage the new venture, and his other interests, in a fish bowl, as his every move and misstep will be the subject of intense media coverage and scrutiny. Casey Ross, STAT, "As Atul Gawande steps into a risky health CEO role, here are five challenges he faces," 9 July 2018 By late morning, 16 aboard had caught 32 salmon — two-fish limits for all aboard. Tom Stienstra,, "Chart-buster times: salmon to whales, bears to bighorns," 8 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Patrons must have an adult library card to check out fishing gear, LaPenotiere said. David Anderson, The Aegis, "Patrons can borrow fishing poles, tackle, from Joppa Library," 3 July 2018 The next day, after the video caused a local uproar, community organizer Matt Nelson streamed Sintay fishing Drew’s things from the lake on Facebook Live. Niki Mcgloster,, "White Man Arrested After Throwing Black Homeless Man’s Belongings In Lake," 13 June 2018 This deal runs sitewide and includes all kinds of cool gadgets, home tools, style accessories, speakers, watches, fishing equipment, grilling tools and more. Anna Hecht, CNN Underscored, "Shop the eBay Father's Day flash sale for 20% off your entire purchase," 6 June 2018 As Huang reveals, the twins were much more than a freak show spectacle — strivers, showmen and slaveholders who settled in rural North Carolina, country squires who loved to hunt and fish. Vanessa Hua, San Francisco Chronicle, "‘Inseparable,’ by Yunte Huang," 10 May 2018 It’s been known for decades that fish fertility generally increases with size. Erik Stokstad, Science | AAAS, "Should ‘superspawners’ stir up fisheries management?," 10 May 2018 Tourists visit to hunt and fish while others go camping and white-water rafting in the rivers and streams that snake through the Nantahala National Forest. Washington Post, "AP Exclusive: NC county illegally removed kids from homes," 14 Mar. 2018 The family summered in Lebanon, and Patricia, a tomboy, learned to hunt and fish all over Iraq. Marcia Desanctis, Town & Country, "The Strange Saga of Trump Winery," 14 Oct. 2016 How to get past the slime, scales, and fish eyes to shop like a chef. 1. Nicole Yorio, Redbook, "Take the Fear Out of Buying Seafood," 20 May 2011

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'fish.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of fish


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

History and Etymology for fish


Middle English, from Old English fisc; akin to Old High German fisc fish, Latin piscis


see fish entry 1

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Statistics for fish

Last Updated

12 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for fish

The first known use of fish was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for fish



English Language Learners Definition of fish

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a cold-blooded animal that lives in water, breathes with gills, and usually has fins and scales

: the meat of a fish eaten as food



English Language Learners Definition of fish (Entry 2 of 2)

: to catch or try to catch fish

: to catch or try to catch fish in (a river, stream, etc.)

: to search for something by feeling : to use your hand to try to find something


\ ˈfish \
plural fish or fishes

Kids Definition of fish

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : any of a large group of vertebrate animals that live in water, breathe with gills, and usually have fins and scales

2 : an animal that lives in water usually used in combination starfishshellfish

Other words from fish

fishlike \-ˌlīk \ adjective


fished; fishing

Kids Definition of fish (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to catch or try to catch fish

2 : to search for something by or as if by feeling I fished in my purse for change.

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More from Merriam-Webster on fish

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for fish

Spanish Central: Translation of fish

Nglish: Translation of fish for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of fish for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about fish

Comments on fish

What made you want to look up fish? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the setting in which something occurs

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