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

Salmon and other fish that breed in fresh water but live most of their lives in salt water are important to many Alaskans, both as food and as industry, and this measure would seek to provide additional protection for salmon. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "States will vote on these energy and environment issues in midterm elections," 4 Nov. 2018 Groups like the Commercial Fisherman’s Association say that salmon are more than just large and delicious fish that taste great with schmear. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Environmental Measures on the 2018 Midterm Election Ballots You Should Know About," 18 Oct. 2018 Pipeline construction would cut through the southern end of the Atchafalaya Basin, one of the last critical swamp habitats in the world, which is home to more than 65 species of reptiles and amphibians and more than 200 species of birds and fish. Mary Lovell, Teen Vogue, "Bayou Bridge Pipeline Meets Resistance from the L’eau Est La Vie Camp," 16 Oct. 2018 There’s way more to London then the Royals, pub-hopping and fish n’ chips—for nine splendid days in September, the city turns into a design lover's dream during their annual London Design Festival. Carisha Swanson, House Beautiful, "Go Inside The London Design Festival, AKA Fashion Week For Decor Addicts," 2 Oct. 2018 But for animal welfare advocates, there’s no truly ethical way to raise cattle or fish for lobster. Gaby Del Valle, Vox, "The owner of a Maine lobster pound is sedating her lobsters with marijuana before killing them.," 19 Sep. 2018 Raw shrimp, salmon, fish and cooked chicken at improper temperature. Robert Gundran, azcentral, "Restaurant with no sneeze guard on salsa bar among this week's violations," 11 July 2018 Sufferers report smelling hydrogen sulfide (rotten eggs), bad perfume, garbage, a gas leak, wet dog, pungent body odor or spoiled fish or feces. NBC News, "Phantom smells may be a sign of trouble," 10 July 2018 Sushi aficionados, get ready for Omakase Yume, a tiny omakase-style counter dedicated to seasonally fresh seafood and fish. Grace Wong,, "Omakase Yume brings chefs' choice sushi to the West Loop, plus other restaurant news," 10 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Finestkind Cruises offers fishing boat tours, lobster boat tours, or sunset sails that leave directly from Perkins Cove. Lindsay Silberman, Town & Country, "The Perfect Weekend in Ogunquit, Maine," 24 Oct. 2018 The most common items found were tennis balls, fishing line and lots and lots of glass. Courtney Mcgee,, "A world of thanks for helpers big and small in the Towson area," 9 May 2018 His grandfather taught him how to fish, and his first catch was a rainbow trout at his uncle's farm. Kellie Hwang, azcentral, "Best new meat shops, seafood markets in Phoenix bring fresh take on tradition," 30 Apr. 2018 Take action: Make a donation so a family can learn how to fish or grow food. Whitney Eulich, The Christian Science Monitor, "After hurricane Maria, he's helping the ocean – and its fishers – recover," 9 Apr. 2018 Her bionic hand makes use of fishing line to open and close her fingers with a flick of her wrist, the video says. Michael Mcgough, sacbee, "She's thrown out 4 MLB first pitches with a 3-D printed hand. Next stop: the Bay Area | The Sacramento Bee," 31 Mar. 2018 Others include a Canada goose with severe leg injuries from fishing line, a woodchuck with a large lesion on its hindquarters and an opossum with a frostbitten tail. Meg Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Clover, the adorable fox kit found abandoned last week, is improving at Humane Society," 22 Mar. 2018 Most visitors to the Northwest Angle just come up for the weekend to fish, but about sixty Americans live there full time, mostly working the lodges that cater to tourists. Ken Jennings, Condé Nast Traveler, "This Tiny Minnesota Town Is Completely Surrounded by Canada," 5 Nov. 2018 Photo: Acey Harper/Getty Images My parents were mountaineers who liked packing their backpacks and heading up to the White Cloud Mountains on the weekends to fish. WSJ, "Skier Picabo Street Used Anger to Banish Fear and Become an Olympic Champion," 30 Oct. 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

5 Dec 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).


a nest or breeding place

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