fam·​ish | \ ˈfa-mish How to pronounce famish (audio) \
famished; famishing; famishes

Definition of famish

transitive verb

1 : to cause to suffer severely from hunger
2 archaic : to cause to starve to death

intransitive verb

1 archaic : starve
2 : to suffer for lack of something necessary a moment when French poetry in particular was famishing for such invention— T. S. Eliot

Other Words from famish

famishment \ ˈfa-​mish-​mənt How to pronounce famish (audio) \ noun

Did you know?

Famish likely developed as an alteration of Middle English famen, meaning "to starve." The Middle English word was borrowed from the Anglo-French verb afamer, which etymologists believe came from Vulgar Latin affamare. We say "believe" because, while no written evidence has yet been found for the Vulgar Latin word affamare, it would be the expected source for the Anglo-French verb based on the combination of the Latin prefix ad- ("to" or "toward") and the root noun fames ("hunger"). In contemporary English, the verb famish is still used on occasion, but it is considerably less common than the related adjective famished, which usually means "hungry" or "starving" but can also mean "needy" or "being in want."

Examples of famish in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Or that his pan-religious message of love and godliness is embraced by the spiritually famished. John Anderson, WSJ, 31 Dec. 2019 Y’all might be famished, but Joe stays fat these days. Joseph Goodman, al, 21 Nov. 2019 Afterward, both of us were famished but neither wanted to cook. Alejandro Varela, Harper's magazine, 16 Sep. 2019 When someone is famished, even five minutes can seem interminable. Dear Abby, oregonlive.com, 24 Aug. 2019 For years, researchers have seen mice and rats perform well on cognitive tests when famished. Mark Barna, Discover Magazine, 24 Sep. 2018 The boys were famished and weak when they were found, having lost an average of more than four pounds each. John Bacon, ajc, 12 July 2018 After all that intense activity, my kids would be famished. Charlotte Hilton Andersen, Redbook, 15 Jan. 2012 The boys were famished and weak when they were found, having lost an average of more than four pounds each. John Bacon, ajc, 12 July 2018 See More

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

First Known Use of famish

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for famish

Middle English, probably alteration of famen, from Anglo-French afamer, from Vulgar Latin *affamare, from Latin ad- + fames

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The first known use of famish was in the 15th century

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Dictionary Entries Near famish

famine fever



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Cite this Entry

“Famish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/famish. Accessed 22 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for famish


fam·​ish | \ ˈfa-mish How to pronounce famish (audio) \
famished; famishing

Kids Definition of famish

: starve

More from Merriam-Webster on famish

Britannica English: Translation of famish for Arabic Speakers


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