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 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 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

Keep scrolling for more

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


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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Gertrude went into the kitchen, coated fish fillets with cornmeal and fried them for everyone. Lizzie Presser, ProPublica, "The Reels Brothers Spent Eight Years in Jail for Refusing to Leave It.," 15 July 2019 Fried chicken wings are piping hot, paper-crisp and encased in a salty-sweet fish sauce lacquer. Dominic Armato, azcentral, "The best restaurants in Mesa," 15 July 2019 The menu includes Noctural Nosh (fish dip), Shark Bait (tuna poke) and Shark Bites (Fish n’ Chips). Johnny Diaz,, "Discovery Channel’s ‘Shark Week’ dives into Fort Lauderdale beach," 15 July 2019 Dear Readers: Here are some uses for old fish tanks/aquariums: ● Use to raise an ant farm. ● Use as a planter. Heloise, Washington Post, "Hints From Heloise: What to do when woman discovers pay inequity?," 15 July 2019 But decades of space research have allowed India to develop satellite, communications and remote sensing technologies that are helping solve everyday problems at home, from forecasting fish migration to predicting storms and floods. Fox News, "India aborts Moon mission launch, citing technical glitch," 15 July 2019 Between 2012 and 2017, Chinese fish farmers exported nearly 150 tons of caviar. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "China produces loads of “black gold,” but will caviar lovers bite?," 14 July 2019 That was before Egg’s headless body was found last year decomposed in a fish tank. Heather Knight,, "Welcome home: Trips abroad put San Francisco’s chaotic streets in perspective," 13 July 2019 Not just bald eagles, but fish-eaters like osprey and blue heron also once died out on the James. Tamara Dietrich,, "Bald eagles have come back from the dead in the Chesapeake Bay," 13 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

All boats fishing in the waters must have an observer, usually someone from one of the island nations who reports what happens on the boat. Phillip Molnar, San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Diego-based tuna company selling boats, blames U.S. regulations," 10 July 2019 According to Slate, the city of Oakland had to fish 60 electric scooters out of Lake Merritt in just the month of October. Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge, "Flash floods in Washington, DC take their toll on dockless bikes and scooters," 8 July 2019 The surviving three crew members apparently managed to initiate an emergency surfacing that was witnessed by Russian fishermen illegally fishing in restricted waters off the coast of the Kola Peninsula. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "Russian spy sub crew prevented nuclear accident at cost of their lives," 8 July 2019 Gotta be careful when landing biggins off the bank while fishing in the Everglades. Joe Mario Pedersen,, "Close call: Alligator nearly bites Florida fisherman reaching for his catch," 1 July 2019 To fish in the local bay waters, anyone can buy a fishing license—no questions asked—so of course fish populations decline. Jared Diamond, National Geographic, "How the pros and cons of city living vary around the world," 22 June 2019 In retirement, Quatman plans to fish in the spring, summer and fall. Erika Butler,, "Darlington school bus driver donates early retirement incentive to school's autism program," 18 June 2019 And not for nothing, everything comes together in about 25 minutes, which seems to be the magic number for how much time most people are willing to devote to cooking indoors in the summertime, and to fish in general. Alison Roman, New York Times, "Foolproof Fish Isn’t a Myth," 17 June 2019 Merrick Malach, Mike Mrotek and Dan Schuettpelz all of Green Bay and Matt McArdle of Kewaunee – are scheduled to fish together in a tournament later this month. Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Lake Michigan catch featuring heavier salmon and trout," 15 June 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about fish

Statistics for fish

Last Updated

18 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for fish

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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 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 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.

Keep scrolling for more

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).


an act or instance of editing or removing

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!