her·​ring ˈher-iŋ How to pronounce herring (audio)
plural herring or herrings
: either of two food fishes (genus Clupeus):
: one (C. harengus) that is abundant in the temperate and colder parts of the North Atlantic and that in the adult state is preserved by smoking or salting and in the young state is extensively canned and sold as sardines
: one (C. pallasi synonym C. h. pallasi) of the North Pacific harvested especially for its roe
: any of a large family (Clupeidae) of soft-finned bony fishes (such as the herrings, shads, sardines, and menhadens) that have a laterally compressed body and a forked tail and usually occur in schools

Examples of herring in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web They were allegedly inspired by the pattern of a herring’s skeleton—hence the name of the pattern—and used it to pave roads throughout the empire. Mary Cornetta, Better Homes & Gardens, 10 Nov. 2023 Van der Mersch has a herring pinched in his right hand and a bundle of straw in the other. Zachary Fine, The New Yorker, 3 Nov. 2023 What do herring fishermen, gun rights advocates and Elon Musk have in common? Steven P. Dinkin, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8 Oct. 2023 The count of river herring is also up, and that could be aiding the salmon on their perilous journey from the sea to the river. Patrick Whittle, Anchorage Daily News, 8 Sep. 2023 On the eve of the wedding, the bride and groom brought the out-of-towners to Stockholm’s Pelikan restaurant, for a classic Swedish meal of herring and meatballs washed down with shots of schnapps. Kerry McDermott, Vogue, 7 Oct. 2023 Every winter, enormous schools of herring migrate from the open ocean into the fjords of northern Norway and attract large numbers of big predators, such as orcas and humpback whales. Alan Taylor, The Atlantic, 2 Oct. 2023 The rule required fishing boats to host observers at the industry’s expense to monitor the herring population. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 3 Oct. 2023 The Kastmaster’s shape is a close match to juvenile bunker, herring, and other forage staples. 14. Jimmy Fee, Field & Stream, 13 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'herring.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English hering, from Old English hǣring; akin to Old High German hārinc herring

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of herring was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near herring

Cite this Entry

“Herring.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/herring. Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


her·​ring ˈher-iŋ How to pronounce herring (audio)
plural herring or herrings
: a valuable food fish that is very common in the north Atlantic Ocean
also : any of various fishes like this one or related to it

More from Merriam-Webster on herring

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