cat·​fish | \ ˈkat-ˌfish How to pronounce catfish (audio) \

Definition of catfish

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : any of an order (Siluriformes) of chiefly freshwater stout-bodied scaleless bony fishes having long tactile barbels
2 : a person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes


catfished; catfishing; catfishes

Definition of catfish (Entry 2 of 2)

1 intransitive : to fish for catfish … Bob was catfishing off a floating Ohio River dock near Eight Mile Road east of Cincinnati one early summer evening …Kentucky Happy Hunting Ground
2 transitive : to deceive (someone) by creating a false personal profile online "They never actually met. She was an online thing. They'd been talking for over a year. We were all pretty sure she was catfishing him, but he was convinced she was legit and that they were in love."— R. L. Naquin "Heather" stopped messaging me abruptly several months after we started talking. She was a grown woman, and I never lied about how young I was. Even so, I've never been quite sure which one of us was being catfished.— Vanessa Vitiello Uruhart — see also catfish entry 1 sense 2

Illustration of catfish

Illustration of catfish


catfish 1

In the meaning defined above

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Other Words from catfish


catfishing noun
… this novel is timely due to recent high-profile examples of "catfishing"—where an individual creates a false online identity, often with deceptive or malicious romantic goals. — Ryan F. Paulsen

Did You Know?

For centuries, a catfish was merely a type of fish with a distinctive face. Then, in 2010, Ariel Schulman released Catfish, a documentary about his brother Nev's experiences with a woman who pretended to be someone else online. (The movie was popular enough to spawn a television show by the same title.) In the documentary, the woman's husband explained the title with an anecdote about how fishermen transporting live cod used to put catfish in with the cod on long-haul shipments to keep the desirable cod active and alert until arrival. The man implied that his wife was like those catfish, keeping the lives of others fresh and interesting.

Examples of catfish in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Clifford is a cool, catfish-looking Muppet who did fine as the host of Muppets Tonight, but never really found his place among the rest of the Muppets crew. Rebecca Caplan, Vulture, "Muppets, Ranked," 26 Mar. 2021 In the end one player will take home $100,000, and these contestants are willing to do anything, even catfish, to win. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "Everything We Know About "The Circle" Season 2," 23 Mar. 2021 Start your day with a breakfast biscuit sandwich topped with country ham, fried catfish or even smoked tofu at Scratch Biscuit Company, which roasts its own coffee (and serves po' boys for lunch, too). Kelsey Ogletree, Southern Living, "How to Explore Virginia's Blue Ridge from Roanoke," 19 Mar. 2021 As for the second course, both the fried catfish with fried potatoes and blackened shrimp with cheese grits sound too good to turn down. Nick Kindelsperger,, "Chicago Restaurant Week preview: 6 special menus we can’t wait to taste," 19 Mar. 2021 Niceland Seafoods, a company that specializes in Icelandic imports, sold out of a shipment of wolffish (it’s kind of like catfish) in a Denver supermarket in four days. Popular Science, "Post-pandemic seafood could be more sustainable. Here’s how tech is driving the change.," 23 Feb. 2021 Spectators are welcomed to see the fish weighed in by some of the country’s best catfish anglers. Frank Sargeant, al, "Alabama Bass Trail 100 announces schedule for 2022," 10 Mar. 2021 Two popular breakfast menu items are the Momma's Down Home (catfish, grits, eggs, hashbrowns) and the Daddy's Down Home (pancakes, bacon, sausage, eggs, hashbrowns). Evan Casey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The owners of Daddy's Soul Food & Grille are opening a new Wauwatosa restaurant with 'family-cooked food'," 6 Mar. 2021 This is my very subjective list of favorite fish to fry (in order): crappie, bluegill, walleye, largemouth bass (from late-fall cold waters of the Pacific Northwest), catfish. Jack Hennessy, Outdoor Life, "How to Fry Fish: The Ultimate Guide on Everything from Oil Temperature to Batter Recipes," 2 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'catfish.' 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 catfish


1612, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1871, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for catfish

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The first known use of catfish was in 1612

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Last Updated

31 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Catfish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for catfish



English Language Learners Definition of catfish

: a type of fish that has a large head and long thin parts that look like a cat's whiskers around its mouth


cat·​fish | \ ˈkat-ˌfish How to pronounce catfish (audio) \

Kids Definition of catfish

: a fish with a large head and feelers about the mouth

More from Merriam-Webster on catfish

Nglish: Translation of catfish for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about catfish

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