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 The decimation of fish and game populations would be rapid, the aftermath catastrophic for the future of wildlife. Steve Meyer, Anchorage Daily News, "If man had to hunt to survive, how long would our stocks of fish and game last?," 22 Mar. 2020 The potential regulations would have significant impacts on both fish and humans. Matt Wyatt,, "Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting canceled, action items moved to May 21," 19 Mar. 2020 This week the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, along with the Governor’s office, and Illinois Department of Health decided to close all state parks, fish and wildlife areas, recreational areas, and historic sites. Joe Genzel, Outdoor Life, "Illinois Closed State Lands to the Public Due to COVID-19," 18 Mar. 2020 The Wuhan market, along with others that sell live animals, has been shut by the Chinese authorities, and the government in February outlawed trading and eating wild animals except for fish and seafood. John Vidal, Scientific American, "Destroyed Habitat Creates the Perfect Conditions for Coronavirus to Emerge," 18 Mar. 2020 Plastic debris in the ocean can also become coated with algae and other marine microbes that produce a chemical scent, which sea turtles, seabirds, fish and other marine life associate with food. Shannon Brines, The Conversation, "Balloon releases have deadly consequences – we’re helping citizen scientists map them," 18 Mar. 2020 The top half of the biscuit just sort of rides on top of the fish and coleslaw. Polly Campbell,, "Fish sandwich of the week: Fish on a biscuit from Boomtown Biscuits," 13 Mar. 2020 In the afternoon, Cantonese classics appear, including an excellent salted fish and duck fried rice. oregonlive, "Portland’s 40 best inexpensive restaurants," 11 Mar. 2020 Others that might end up on a stringer include tilapia, bluegill, bigmouth buffalo fish and white and black crappie. Roger Naylor, azcentral, "Lake Pleasant is a desert oasis near Phoenix. Here's everything you can do there," 4 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Anglers fishing under another state’s season must abide by that state’s rules and land fish in that state. al, "State announces details of 2020 red snapper season," 2 Mar. 2020 Outside Samos City Hall, by the curving promenade spotted with gyro restaurants, cafes, and tourism companies, asylum-seekers walked with their children and fished in the port. Jason Horowitz,, "The scenic isle where the world’s chaos comes home to roost," 8 Feb. 2020 Fishbrain notes: Offering the opportunity to fish in either the marina or the river, the waters by the lighthouse offer the perfect respite from the busy city life with a large variety of species to hook. Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press, "Fishbrain app reveals the 10 best places to fish in metro Detroit," 21 Jan. 2020 The study also revealed that in Vietnam, which is one of the world’s leading fishmeal producers, unsustainable fishing practices has caused fish stock reduction and due to which boats are regularly fishing in foreign waters which is prohibited. Haritha John, Quartz India, "Fish meal and fish oil industries are wiping out India’s marine resources," 8 Jan. 2020 Both lakes have rich histories with bass anglers, but neither has been fishing up to par in recent times. Electrofishing survey data shows the two bass fisheries are in good shape. Matt Williams,, "Research study following bass that go beep," 19 Dec. 2019 The Japanese government has protested to Russia about the seizure of the vessels, which were fishing in accordance with an agreement between the countries, Suga said. Isabel Reynolds / Bloomberg, Time, "Russia Seizes Five Octopus-Fishing Boats Near Disputed Islands, Japan Says," 18 Dec. 2019 Since both nations are currently members of the European Union, Irish trawlermen are entitled to fish in the United Kingdom’s EEZ under the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy. Greg Noone, Smithsonian, "This Tiny, Uninhabitable Islet in the North Atlantic Has Been Attracting Fishermen and Adventurers for Decades," 30 Oct. 2019 One victim was pulled out of the water by three men fishing in the area and transported by the Coast Guard to a New London ambulance on shore. Kathleen Mcwilliams,, "Four being treated for hypothermia after boat capsizes near Race Rock Lighthouse," 13 Oct. 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

27 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Fish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Mar. 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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