noun, often attributive
\ ˈfish How to pronounce fish (audio) \
plural fish or fishes

Definition of fish

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : an aquatic animal usually used in combinationstarfishcuttlefish
b : any of numerous cold-blooded strictly aquatic craniate vertebrates that include the bony fishes and usually the cartilaginous and jawless fishes and that have typically an elongated somewhat spindle-shaped body terminating in a broad caudal (see caudal sense 2) fin, limbs in the form of fins when present at all, and a 2-chambered heart by which blood is sent through thoracic gills to be oxygenated freshwater fish tropical fish
2 : the flesh of fish used as food We're having fish for dinner.
3a : a person who is caught or is wanted (as in a criminal investigation)
b : fellow, person an odd fish
c : sucker sense 5a felt sorry for the poor fish
4 : something that resembles a fish: such as
a Fish or Fishes plural : pisces sense 1 also : pisces sense 2a
b : torpedo sense 1b The submarine's fish hit the freighter.
fish out of water
: a person who is in an unnatural or uncomfortable sphere or situation The country boy felt like a fish out of water in the big city.
fish to fry
: concerns or interests to pursue usually used with othercan't deal with that problem now; we've got other fish to fry right now
neither fish nor fowl
: one that does not belong to a particular class or category The movie is neither fish nor fowl—it's not really a comedy, but it's too light-hearted to be called a drama.


fished; fishing; fishes

Definition of fish (Entry 2 of 3)

intransitive verb

1 : to attempt to catch fish
2 : to seek something by roundabout means fishing for a compliment
3a : to search for something underwater fish for pearls
b : to engage in a search by groping or feeling fishing around in her purse for her keys

transitive verb

1a : to try to catch fish in
b : to fish with : use (something, such as a boat, a net, or bait) in fishing
2a : to go fishing for fish salmon
b : to pull or draw as if fishing fished the ball from under the car fish wires through a conduit
fish or cut bait
: to make a choice between alternatives


biographical name
\ ˈfish How to pronounce Fish (audio) \

Definition of Fish (Entry 3 of 3)

Hamilton 1808–1893 American statesman

Illustration of fish

Illustration of fish


fish 1b: 1 mandible, 2 nasal opening, 3 eye, 4 cheek, 5 operculum, 6 dorsal fins, 7 lateral line, 8 caudal fin, 9 scales, 10 anal fin, 11 anus, 12 pectoral fin, 13 pelvic fin, 14 maxilla, 15 premaxilla, 16 upper jaw

In the meaning defined above

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Other Words from fish


fishless \ ˈfish-​ləs How to pronounce fishless (audio) \ adjective
fishlike \ ˈfish-​ˌlīk How to pronounce fishlike (audio) \ adjective


fishability \ ˌfi-​shə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce fishability (audio) \ noun
fishable \ ˈfi-​shə-​bəl How to pronounce fishable (audio) \ adjective

Examples of fish in a Sentence

Noun We're having fish for dinner. he's rather an odd fish Verb We spent the afternoon fishing for trout. They fished the stream all morning. She was fishing around in her purse for her keys.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Their presence in the Columbia, Willamette and other major rivers in recent years spawned federal legislation as Oregon and Washington succeeded in pushing for more lenience to kill more of the mammals to protect endangered fish. oregonlive, "‘It just kept moving:’ Sea lion that wandered into Cowlitz County hills trapped after long standoff," 25 Feb. 2020 Baugh loves the daily specials, farm fresh vegetables and fresh fish. Georgann Yara, azcentral, "'Constantly trying to evolve': Phoenix City Grille changes just enough to stay relevant in Valley restaurant scene," 23 Feb. 2020 Bass fishing is also tough, but some fish are being caught on crankbaits and soft plastics, particularly around culverts and other drains into the main lake or river; Frank Sargeant, al, "Friday Fishing Report: Heavy rains make fishing difficult for anglers," 21 Feb. 2020 Canada's Capelin Roll Each year around the summer solstice (June 20th this year), the beaches of Newfoundland and Labrador explode in silvery sparkles as millions of capelin fish arrive in the shallows to spawn. Emily Matchar, Smithsonian Magazine, "Nine Rare Natural Phenomena Worth Traveling For," 20 Feb. 2020 More than 211 gallons of sewage has spilled into the waterways and streets of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, killing fish, seeping into houses and prompting the city's mayor to plead for state and federal assistance. Elizabeth Chuck, NBC News, "More than 211 million gallons of sewage into Fort Lauderdale's waterways," 18 Feb. 2020 Once in the water, fish absorb mercury through their gills and their food. Ian Randall, Science | AAAS, "The real ‘paleo diet’ may have been full of toxic metals," 14 Feb. 2020 Property-owning cichlid fish seem as ruthless about receiving what they are owed as any 19th-century tenement holder in the Lower East Side of New York. The Economist, "Animal behaviour Fish, like people, must pay for their accommodation," 13 Feb. 2020 The verdant coastland and marshes teem with wildlife and fish, but every 100 minutes, land roughly the size of a football field vanishes under water. Anne Mcclintock, Teen Vogue, "The Last Teenagers on Isle de Jean Charles, An Island Climate Change Is Washing Away," 11 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb For the coastal communities, the hatchery program is a lifesaver for many of the people who fish for a living. Anchorage Daily News, "Dutch Harbor stays on top among U.S. fishing ports," 25 Feb. 2020 The boat had been on autopilot, and the two people, who had been fishing off Coronado Island, may have been asleep, Stropky said. Teri Figueroa, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Two rescued after boat ends up stuck inside Point Loma cave," 6 Sep. 2019 An arriving officer located the men, who were fishing in the creek. John Benson,, "Painter causes panic arriving on wrong day: Strongsville Police Blotter," 17 July 2019 For the first time since they were created, 31 sites dedicated to Northwest tribes who fish the Columbia River could see an immediate infusion of cash to improve conditions., "U.S. Senate approves $11 million to improve Columbia River fishing sites; look to president’s signature," 27 June 2019 The Spurs, for obvious reasons, haven’t been fishing from that talent pool in a long, long time. Mike Finger,, "DeRozan states case, but Spurs’ All-Star streak in peril," 29 Jan. 2020 Mounbatten was fishing off the coast of Mullaghmore, Ireland when his boat exploded from a bomb that had been smuggled on board. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Season 4 of The Crown Will Feature Lord Mountbatten's Funeral," 26 Jan. 2020 Brett Gardner fished for a fastball up for another strikeout. Shayna Rubin, The Mercury News, "Trivino serves up walk-off homer as Yankees beat Athletics in 11," 31 Aug. 2019 Starting in the 1960s, seamounts north of the Hawaiian Islands were heavily fished and scarred with trawl nets. Scientific American, "Ballistic Maggots, Synthetic Winks and Why You’re Not Goop: This Week’s Best Science GIFs," 9 Aug. 2019

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


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

History and Etymology for fish

Noun and Verb

Middle English, from Old English fisc; akin to Old High German fisc fish, Latin piscis

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Time Traveler for fish

Time Traveler

The first known use of fish was before the 12th century

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Statistics for fish

Last Updated

28 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Fish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for fish


How to pronounce Fish (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of fish

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a cold-blooded animal that lives in water, breathes with gills, and usually has fins and scales
: the meat of a fish eaten as food



English Language Learners Definition of fish (Entry 2 of 2)

: to catch or try to catch fish
: to catch or try to catch fish in (a river, stream, etc.)
: to search for something by feeling : to use your hand to try to find something


\ ˈfish How to pronounce fish (audio) \
plural fish or fishes

Kids Definition of fish

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : any of a large group of vertebrate animals that live in water, breathe with gills, and usually have fins and scales
2 : an animal that lives in water usually used in combinationstarfishshellfish

Other Words from fish

fishlike \ -​ˌlīk \ adjective


fished; fishing

Kids Definition of fish (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to catch or try to catch fish
2 : to search for something by or as if by feeling I fished in my purse for change.

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More from Merriam-Webster on fish

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for fish

Spanish Central: Translation of fish

Nglish: Translation of fish for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of fish for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about fish

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