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 Some of the most astonishing creatures on Earth hide deep in rivers and lakes: giant catfish weighing over 600 pounds, stingrays the length of Volkswagen Beetles, six-foot-long trout that can swallow a mouse whole. Rachel Nuwer, New York Times, "The Freshwater Giants Are Dying," 21 Jan. 2020 The nonnative ones, which include suckermouth catfish and tilapia, are killed and thrown away, Schauer said. Silvia Foster-frau,, "San Antonio to drain portion of River Walk, remove invasive species," 28 Dec. 2019 Southern classics to try include the shrimp and grits, Nashville hot chicken with mac and cheese, hush puppies, cornmeal crusted catfish, and Texas brisket., "Beacon Hill," 12 Oct. 2019 In the end, one player will take home $100,000 and these players are willing to do anything, even catfish, to be able to take home the prize. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "Everything We Know About "The Circle" Season 2," 6 Jan. 2020 Here, though, use catfish, tilapia or any kind of thin white fish fillets. Los Angeles Times, "The Laotian fish curry fit for royalty," 1 Oct. 2019 Early morning and late evening have been the best times for casting the shoreline for largemouth bass or dunking worms for catfish. D'arcy Egan,, "Lake Erie walleye on the move, but trophy fish still being caught: Aug. 9 Fishing Report," 9 Aug. 2019 Louis Quinones, of Logan Square, fishes at the Humboldt Park lagoon for catfish, bluegills and occasionally Asian carp. Marie Fazio,, "Park District: Stay out of Humboldt Park lagoon due to toxic blue-green algae," 25 June 2019 Officially, the heavyweight title belongs to the Mekong giant catfish, with a specimen caught in northern Thailand in 2005 weighing an astounding 646 pounds. Stefan Lovgren, National Geographic, "This giant stingray could be world's biggest freshwater fish," 24 Dec. 2019

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

15 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Catfish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for catfish


How to pronounce catfish (audio)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on catfish

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with catfish

Spanish Central: Translation of catfish

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

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