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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from famish

famishment \ ˈfa-​mish-​mənt How to pronounce famishment (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 rare occasions, 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."

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about famish

Statistics for famish

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for famish

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for famish


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

Kids Definition of famish

: starve

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on famish

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with famish

Spanish Central: Translation of famish

Britannica English: Translation of famish for Arabic Speakers

Comments on famish

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


a wrong name or inappropriate designation

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Summer 2019 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a-bowl-of-peach-sorbet-with-cut-peaches-next-to-it
  • Which is a synonym of desideratum?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!