noun, often attributive
\ˈfish \
plural fish or fishes

Definition of fish 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1a : an aquatic animal usually used in combination starfishcuttlefish

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 other can'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 \

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 \ adjective
fishlike \ˈfish-ˌlīk \ adjective


fishability \ˌfi-shə-ˈbi-lə-tē \ noun
fishable \ˈfi-shə-bəl \ adjective

Examples of fish in a Sentence


We're having fish for dinner. he's rather an odd fish


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

Little Deer is located near the Wristons’ former home and visitors can walk along the banks and see small and large fish in the water from carp to large-mouth bass. Peter Marteka,, "10 Miles Of Trails Open 7 Days A Week, 52 Weeks A Year. Sherman's Deer Pond Farm Makes Its Debut," 13 July 2018 Balasia Tinker, Cassandra's aunt: No time to watch their fish. Anna Rose Macarthur, Anchorage Daily News, "Far from Anchorage where Cassandra Tinker was killed, a family cuts fish and grieves," 10 July 2018 The first collapse June 22 led to leaks that killed about 800 fish in a nearby stream and pond, leading to a citation from the Energy and Environment Cabinet and a potential fine. Darcy Costello, The Courier-Journal, "Barton 1792 spill filled big bourbon ponds with thousands of gallons," 6 July 2018 CROIX FALLS - Some anglers like to offer fish something new. Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Smith: Retro outing proves fishing fun - and gear - is timeless," 14 July 2018 As for food, Mester has been developing pates, fish entrees, soups and salads along with other signature French dishes, although the menu will reflect a variety of cultures. Anna Muckerman,, "European-style cafe and wine bar coming to Station North," 13 July 2018 Those fish contained more nitrogen and grew larger. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Coral Reefs Need Fewer Rats and More Bird Poo," 12 July 2018 Previous mosaics discovered at Huqoq include depictions of Samson, Noah’s Ark and Jonah being swallowed by three successive fish. James Rogers, Fox News, "Stunning biblical 'spies' mosaic discovered in Israel," 12 July 2018 That is, until researchers discovered ancient whale bones within the ruins of a fish-processing site in the ancient Roman city of Baelo Claudia, near today’s Tarifa, Spain. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "Scientists admit Pliny the Elder was right about orcas and whales.," 11 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

But a very large percentage of our members also love to fish. Michigan Wildlife Council, Detroit Free Press, "Fishing enthusiasts hooked on conservation," 26 June 2018 And many of their accessories (loops of plastic, plush toys) could have been fished from the river in its garbage-dump days. Brian Seibert, New York Times, "Review: A Boat Ride in the Bronx With Ancestral Spirits," 25 June 2018 His father and his uncles fished off a boat, using live bait kept in a coffee can. Heather Radke, Longreads, "A Beginner’s Guide to Fly Fishing With Your Father," 16 June 2018 Above the dam, Swan Falls is ideally fished from a boat. Jordan Rodriguez, idahostatesman, "Fishing is hitting its summer stride across southern Idaho," 8 June 2018 It is only fished commercially in three spots on earth, all in the Gulf or off the Florida coast (though there is a similar shrimp in Argentina). Larry Olmsted, USA TODAY, "Taste one of the world's rarest shrimp on the Gulf Coast," 10 May 2018 Most residents love to fish and those who don't make sure to befriend someone who does. Anchorage Daily News, "Searching for Anchorage’s finest bites? Think seafood," 2 May 2018 Since baby salmon take three years to make it to the ocean and reach maturity, that’s the population due to be fished this season. Tara Duggan, San Francisco Chronicle, "Another short salmon season means skimpy year, high prices," 30 Apr. 2018 Carl was an avid outdoorsmen who loved to fish, hunt and garden. Hartford Courant,, "Carl J. Belanger," 15 Apr. 2018

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


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


see fish entry 1

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Statistics for fish

Last Updated

26 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for fish

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

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More Definitions for fish



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 \
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 combination starfishshellfish

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

Comments on fish

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


evasion of direct action or statement

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