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 invasive fish managed to take over the rivers throughout the city and went completely out of control. Jennifer Billock, Smithsonian, "Milwaukee’s Secret Salmon Runs," 10 Sep. 2019 This second-generation merger is what LIGO/Virgo might have detected — a lucky catch of the big fish in the pond. Quanta Magazine, "Possible Detection of a Black Hole So Big It ‘Should Not Exist’," 28 Aug. 2019 There is no reward for conservation and many western states have no limit on how much water can be taken out of rivers in times of low rainfall, even to guarantee minimum flows for fish. Max Holleran, The New Republic, "The Water Wars Are Here," 13 Sep. 2019 One of my favorite meals of all time is one that feels very much like what inspired Gabriela to open Contramar in the first place: Tacos, made from fresh tortillas and freshly caught fish. Stella Bugbee, Bon Appétit, "Stella Bugbee Perfected Her Tortilla Technique This Summer, What Did You Do?," 9 Sep. 2019 Isotope ratios in fossil bones suggest that Neanderthals ate fish in Western Europe, mollusks along the Mediterranean and Iberian coasts, and marine mammals and crustaceans in western Iberia. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Neanderthals suffered from a veritable epidemic of swimmer’s ear," 19 Aug. 2019 Any temperature over 5 degrees Celsius is too hot for these ice fish, Stewart said. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, "Incredibly Gross New Species of Fish Found in Antarctica," 16 Aug. 2019 Ospreys were abundant across North America up through World War II, catching fish in rivers, lakes and harbors. Jennifer Weeks, The Conversation, "Saving endangered species: 5 essential reads," 13 Aug. 2019 Children under the age of 12 try to catch the fish with their bare hands, take them home and care for them. USA TODAY, "Smokey Bear, tarantula trek, censoring Adam and Eve: News from around our 50 states," 9 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Tactacam also makes a model for anglers that is waterproof and records in a loop to allow filming all day from a head mount, fishing pole or anywhere on the boat. John Goodspeed,, "Scouting interesting stuff to make hunts more fun," 12 Sep. 2019 North Atlantic right whales like this one struggle to free themselves from fishing gear. Scottie Andrew, CNN, "The North Atlantic right whale will soon be extinct unless something is done to save it, researchers warn," 12 Sep. 2019 Getaway for adventurous women: Wyoming Guest ranches in the West tend to lose their family patrons just as prime fly-fishing season begins. Elaine Glusac, New York Times, "Summer’s Not Over Yet! 8 Ways to Extend Your Vacation," 2 Sep. 2019 For example, the palm-nut vulture is an omnivore, and considered intermediate between other vultures and fishing eagles. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Vultures will be showcased Labor Day weekend at San Diego Zoo Safari Park," 27 Aug. 2019 Tours of the retreat, helicopter rides, ATV excursions and fly-fishing completed the day, leaving those in attendance with a full understanding of the complete offerings. Kelli Williams, The Denver Post, "LIV Sotheby’s International Realty hosts an event at Casteel Creek Retreat, listed for $78 million in Edwards," 8 Aug. 2019 Rescuers freed an 18-foot minke whale entangled in fishing gear off the coast of Cape Ann last week and managed to keep it away from a great white shark that was lurking in the area, officials said. Alyssa Lukpat,, "Entangled minke whale freed from fishing gear off Cape Ann while shark lurked nearby," 7 Aug. 2019 Carlyle named the combined company Titan Acquisition Holdings but Vigor and MHI will continue operating under their current names, serving the military, Boeing, cruise lines and fishing fleets, among others. Mike Rogoway,, "Portland shipbuilder Vigor Industrial sells to D.C. investment firm," 25 July 2019 Its new summer menu includes healthy options such as a watermelon salad, a Southwestern salad, and fish tacos, as well as heartier fare like California burgers and roasted turkey BLTs. Jennifer Franklin, USA TODAY, "Discover the best places to chill out poolside at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa," 1 July 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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Statistics for fish

Last Updated

24 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for fish

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

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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

Comments on fish

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an agreement to stop fighting a war

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