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 Though each has been successful with regard to harvest, the trips in recent weeks are about more than netting fish or bagging birds. Bob Timmons, Star Tribune, "Speaking of the season: Minnesota outdoors advocates weigh in on their flight in autumn," 22 Oct. 2020 Beyond red meat: Impossible Burger maker is hiring more than 100 scientists to develop meatless steak, fish and more. Taylor Kate Brown,, "Bay Briefing: Why Sonoma is the only Bay Area county still under tight restrictions," 21 Oct. 2020 The first sushi restaurant in Cleveland, Otani introduced raw fish to the area in 1978. Joey Morona, cleveland, "12 must-try sushi rolls in Greater Cleveland," 20 Oct. 2020 To our surprise, fish and invertebrates returned within only a few years as the meadows expanded. Jonathan Lefcheck, The Conversation, "Restoring seagrasses can bring coastal bays back to life," 20 Oct. 2020 The Greers Ferry National Fish Hatchery, 349 Hatchery Road, has reopened its outside fish-rearing area. Arkansas Online, "CALENDAR EVENTS FOR THE RIVER VALLEY & OZARK AREA," 20 Oct. 2020 More of a Mediterranean-style diet, [an] increase in fish and seafood as opposed to other animal proteins. Pat Stoetzer,, "Embrace Wellness: Cancer patients undergoing treatment see benefits from exercise, nutrition education," 20 Oct. 2020 On the savory side, the extensive menu includes tokwa't baboy, a dish with pork ears, pork belly and fried tofu, and sweet and sour fish. Priscilla Totiyapungprasert, The Arizona Republic, "Looking for Filipino food in metro Phoenix? Here are 16 restaurants, bakeries and pop-ups," 19 Oct. 2020 Deep-sea corals form into tree, feather and fan shapes that host a variety of other species, including shrimp, crab and fish. Tristan Baurick,, "'Like Christmas in October.' Deep-sea corals get new protections in the Gulf of Mexico," 18 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Tyco was also instructed to expand its testing to fish harvested from other private and public waterways in Marinette and Peshtigo, the release said. Laura Schulte, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "DNR orders tests for 'forever chemicals' in fish harvested from Marinette, Peshtigo areas near firefighting foam facility," 19 Oct. 2020 Pay $30 to register in the Brawl and fish any time in the Ohio waters of Lake Erie -- off the shore or a boat -- from Oct. 16 to Nov. 29. Laura Johnston, cleveland, "It’s Fall Brawl time! More than 9,000 anglers aim to win a boat in annual Lake Erie walleye derby," 14 Oct. 2020 These things cast a country mile, leave a wake of bubbles on the water, and can be especially fun to fish around structure on a moonlit night. The Editors, Outdoor Life, "The Outdoor Life Father’s Day Gift Guide," 1 June 2020 For two months this summer 11 longline vessels (down from the usual 17) took halibut survey experts aboard to fish at 898 stations, down 30% from the planned 1,283. Anchorage Daily News, "Lower supplies of wild Pacific salmon by major producers push up prices," 6 Oct. 2020 Curators will instead fish artworks from permanent collections pooled in storage for perpetually changing theme shows. Joseph Giovannini, The New York Review of Books, "The Demolition of LACMA: Art Sacrificed to Architecture," 2 Oct. 2020 Villagers can fish and collect crickets, mushrooms, and firewood. Rina Chandran, The Christian Science Monitor, "A Thai village takes a novel approach to save ancestral forest," 30 Sep. 2020 For guests who have no plans to fish, there’s a lodging and meals package that includes a shuttle into town for local attractions as well as arrangements for spa days, wildlife viewing, or sightseeing excursions. Patricia Doherty, Travel + Leisure, "You Can Go Salmon Fishing, Bear Watching, and 'Flightseeing' by Float Plane at This Alaskan Resort," 9 Sep. 2020 The Korup chimpanzees in southwest Cameroon lean on their elbows to fish, while Goualougo chimps in the Republic of Congo sit down while fishing, according to the study. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, "Chimpanzees’ Termite Fishing Habits Differ by Regional Groups," 3 June 2020

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

25 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Fish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Oct. 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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Comments on fish

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