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

Higher-mercury fish include swordfish, king mackerel, marin, orange roughy, and tilefish. Korin Miller, SELF, "Hilary Duff May Have Eaten Sushi While Pregnant and Everyone Needs to Chill Out About It," 13 July 2018 Berry substituted Maine clams and Casco Bay fish for chicken, along with local potatoes and herbs., "Find out just how much of a foodie city Portland is on a Maine Food for Thought Tour," 11 July 2018 For residents along the river systems on both coasts, another summer of foul water and fish kills seem inevitable. Jenny Staletovich, miamiherald, "Political muscle halts release of Lake O's foul water. The reprieve won't last long," 9 July 2018 So why do people pay to let fish chow down on their feet? Amanda Macmillan,, "A Fish Pedicure Caused a Woman's Toenails to Stop Growing and Fall Off, According to Her Doctor," 5 July 2018 Little Deer is located near the Wristons’ former home and visitors can walk along the banks and see small and large fish in the water from carp to large-mouth bass. Peter Marteka,, "10 Miles Of Trails Open 7 Days A Week, 52 Weeks A Year. Sherman's Deer Pond Farm Makes Its Debut," 13 July 2018 Balasia Tinker, Cassandra's aunt: No time to watch their fish. Anna Rose Macarthur, Anchorage Daily News, "Far from Anchorage where Cassandra Tinker was killed, a family cuts fish and grieves," 10 July 2018 The first collapse June 22 led to leaks that killed about 800 fish in a nearby stream and pond, leading to a citation from the Energy and Environment Cabinet and a potential fine. Darcy Costello, The Courier-Journal, "Barton 1792 spill filled big bourbon ponds with thousands of gallons," 6 July 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Looking for a spot to fish in Boston Harbor or to walk your dog by the waterfront? Tim Logan,, "Here’s a new way to find a restroom (and other things) on Boston’s waterfront," 11 July 2018 Holliday has been fishing at the mouth of the St. Lucie in Stuart, Fla. for decades, but his and others’ recreation is threatened these days every time there’s a major storm. Douglas Kennedy, Fox News, "South Florida pushes Trump administration to revamp region's levee system," 25 June 2018 Phil Eggleton, who runs Trout Town Adventures with his son Dave, has been fishing these waters since the 1970s, and arrives equipped with must-have gear like waders and rods, plus a lifetime’s knowledge of the best local spots. Elizabeth Dunn, WSJ, "A Stress-Free Summer Weekend in the Catskills," 15 June 2018 Daniel Moffatt, co-owner and head brewer of Fountainhead Brewing Company, mentioned during an interview for Chechourka's blog that Arcadia Publishing had been fishing around for someone to write about the Sacramento craft beer scene. Cassie Dickman, sacbee, "Sacramento has a craft beer industry worth writing a book about | The Sacramento Bee," 7 May 2018 The Independence resident has been fishing the rivers all his life, and he's caught largemouth bass on them weighing up to 6 1/2 pounds. Todd Masson,, "Whacking bass in raging rapids," 6 Apr. 2018 Four people who had been fishing along the sea wall were swept into the ocean by raging waves. Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, "Q) Why did Trump say, ‘Nice work, gentlemen’ when he gave Medals of Valor to 12 ‘heroes’? A) They were all men.," 21 Feb. 2018 Bollman and Chezem had been fishing on risky ice, Brown said. Vic Ryckaert, Indianapolis Star, "Off-duty conservation officer and friend drown in ice-fishing accident, leaving grief and questions behind," 14 Feb. 2018 The document said the younger Duncan Hunter had seen Driscoll interact with her son at various foundation events, and that Hunter and her son had been fishing together. Morgan Cook,, "Trial nears for head of veterans charity co-founded by the elder Duncan Hunter," 2 Feb. 2018

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

24 Oct 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

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a private place of worship

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