lan·​guish | \ˈlaŋ-gwish \
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 \ adverb
languishment \ ˈlaŋ-​gwish-​mənt \ noun

Examples of languish in a Sentence

older people, especially, were languishing during the prolonged heat wave

Recent Examples on the Web

Instead, the metal has languished as economic-growth momentum has shifted to the U.S. and the Federal Reserve has continued to raise interest rates. Amrith Ramkumar, WSJ, "Why Gold’s Tumble Signals Confidence in U.S. Economy," 22 June 2018 Researchers in Europe had already collaborated with two different companies: One that didn’t survive, and one that had let the compound languish on a shelf. Eric Boodman, STAT, "‘A full rescue’: Drug injected before birth treats rare genetic disorder," 25 Apr. 2018 So why has al-Awda languished in detention since Sept. 7, when he, other clerics and intellectuals were swept up by Saudi authorities? NBC News, "Saudi cleric Salman al-Awda called for reform. Now he’s in solitary confinement.," 27 Jan. 2018 First, Grahm intends to plant and test a series of uncelebrated grapes that have languished in the shadows of European viticulture. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "A Vintner’s Quest to Create a Truly American Wine," 14 May 2018 The top security minister, Wiranto, who uses one name, said the government will attempt to hasten passage of an updated antiterrorism law that has languished in Parliament. Niniek Karmini,, "Another Indonesia suicide bombing attributed to family," 14 May 2018 Many bills languish in committee, so the proposal won't necessarily be voted on by the legislature. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, "$20 porn-unblocking fee could hit Internet users if state bill becomes law," 6 Mar. 2018 In an Anchorage courtroom on Monday, a dozen or more prosecutors and defense attorneys met in a first-time effort to clear a backlog of criminal cases that have languished for years without resolution. Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News, "Faced with a severe backlog of long-delayed criminal cases, Alaska attorneys try a new strategy," 6 Mar. 2018 The top finds—the ones that languished in obscurity the longest and later got the most intense attention from the scientific community—came from chemistry, physics and statistics. Amber Williams, Scientific American, "Some of the Best Science Can Slumber for Years," 1 Jan. 2016

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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Statistics for languish

Last Updated

10 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for languish

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

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More Definitions for languish



English Language Learners Definition of languish

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


lan·​guish | \ˈlaŋ-gwish \
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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Comments on languish

What made you want to look up languish? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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