lan·​guish | \ ˈlaŋ-gwish How to pronounce languish (audio) \
languished; languishing; languishes

Definition of languish

intransitive verb

1a : to be or become feeble, weak, or enervated Plants languish in the drought.
b : to be or live in a state of depression or decreasing vitality languished in prison for ten years
2a : to become dispirited
b : to suffer neglect the bill languished in the Senate for eight months
3 : to assume an expression of grief or emotion appealing for sympathy languished at him through screwed-up eyes— Edith Wharton

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Other Words from languish

languisher noun
languishingly \ ˈlaŋ-​gwi-​shiŋ-​lē How to pronounce languishingly (audio) \ adverb
languishment \ ˈlaŋ-​gwish-​mənt How to pronounce languishment (audio) \ noun

Examples of languish in a Sentence

older people, especially, were languishing during the prolonged heat wave
Recent Examples on the Web About 70,000 of those applications continue to languish inside the employment department. oregonlive, "Participants offer inside look at employment department debacle," 20 June 2020 Police departments command billions of dollars and a huge proportion of city budgets while social services languish. Libby Watson, The New Republic, "The Solution to Police Murder Is Not More Money," 17 June 2020 Its first quarter results showed that its strong brands were poised for a quick snapback but that its weaker brands continue to languish. Phil Wahba, Fortune, "Gap calls on landlords to share the pain," 5 June 2020 The cafe owner willing to slip a box under a container of milk, perhaps, or a supermarket cashier willing to steal and resell cigarettes languishing in the storeroom. Lynsey Chutel, New York Times, "Taking on Covid-19, South Africa Goes After Cigarettes and Booze, Too," 8 May 2020 The mentally ill, so vulnerable and in need of care, are crowding emergency rooms, languishing in prisons, and sleeping under bridges. Mona Charen, National Review, "Stepping around Human Misery," 31 Jan. 2020 Against: As the Brewers series closed, only three teams in baseball had struck out more and the Padres languished in the bottom third of the league for walks — an awful and alarming combination. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Debating whether Padres manager Andy Green should be fired or kept," 20 Sep. 2019 Once finished, some of the homes languish on the market and in normal times are rented for lavish parties. Nathan Fenno, Los Angeles Times, "L.A. hunkered down. But it hasn’t stopped building mansions, stadiums and apartments," 24 Apr. 2020 Funds for the 2016 pink salmon failure, for example, were sent out starting just two months ago after languishing on bureaucrats’ desks in Washington for more than two years. Anchorage Daily News, "Call for comments on cod disaster funds and coronavirus impacts," 7 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'languish.' 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 languish

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for languish

Middle English, from Anglo-French languiss-, stem of languir, from Vulgar Latin *languire, from Latin languēre

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Time Traveler for languish

Time Traveler

The first known use of languish was in the 14th century

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Statistics for languish

Last Updated

4 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Languish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for languish


How to pronounce languish (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of languish

formal + literary : to continue for a long time without activity or progress in an unpleasant or unwanted situation


lan·​guish | \ ˈlaŋ-gwish How to pronounce languish (audio) \
languished; languishing

Kids Definition of languish

1 : to be or become weak, dull, or listless “I don't feel good at all. I think I'm languishing …”— E. B. White, Charlotte's Web
2 : to continue for a long time without activity or progress in an unpleasant or unwanted situation The innocent man languished in prison.

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