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 The cool waters of local upground reservoirs are giving up bass, panfish and catfish, including Oberlin, Wellington and Norwalk reservoirs. D'arcy Egan,, "Lake Erie’s fish of the future have arrived: Aug. 16 Fishing Report," 16 Aug. 2019 While here, break out your fishing rod to catch some walleye, catfish, yellow perch, crappie, bluegill, sunfish and carp. Sarah Kuta, The Know, "9 spots that are perfect for your next Colorado lake day," 1 Aug. 2019 Instead, there is a Dominican rice bowl ($13.95) with oxtail, catfish, chicken or that sublime vegetable stew. Soleil Ho,, "Alamar’s seafood brings us back to our home shores," 26 July 2019 Anglers can catch largemouth bass, catfish, carp and walleye. Roger Naylor, azcentral, "These Arizona campgrounds will reserve your spot," 17 June 2019 Scientists also explored the possibility of giant fish, such as catfish or sturgeon, being responsible for sightings, but Gemmel said that was a dead end too. NBC News, "New study suggests mythical Loch Ness monster may be a giant eel," 5 Sep. 2019 If live bait is hard to get, a chunk of cut mullet fished on bottom will do just fine—reds quickly home in on the scent, if a shark or catfish doesn’t beat them to it. Frank Sargeant, al, "Fall fishing on Alabama Gulf Coast heats up after crowds thin," 4 Sep. 2019 Outlook: Gier’s Bass Pro reports: crappie – bite is excellent with fish up on the banks hitting jigs or minnows; bass – staging around back corners of docks, hitting top water, lizards, and spinnerbaits when wind is blowing; catfish – no reports. Tyler Mahoney Special To The Star, kansascity, "Fishing report: Lakes and rivers around region reaching 60-degree mark | The Kansas City Star," 2 May 2018 The Big Event will include a shrimp and catfish dinner and will feature the band Modulation. Elliott Lapin, Houston Chronicle, "Cody Stephens Foundation Big Event to take place on Aug. 17," 5 Aug. 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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Statistics for catfish

Last Updated

25 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for catfish

The first known use of catfish was in 1612

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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

Comments on catfish

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


to engage in dissolute behavior

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