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 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 The letter languished on a desk of a U-M Title IX office administrator before a police investigation was begun. David Jesse, Detroit Free Press, "Former U-M wrestler: I blew whistle on U-M doctor in 1975, was dismissed from team," 27 Feb. 2020 With the 33-year-old forward languishing on the inactive list, the Spurs on Monday reached a buyout agreement that would allow Carroll to become an unrestricted free agent and sign with another team. Jeff Mcdonald,, "Short, strange stay ends as Spurs set DeMarre Carroll free," 17 Feb. 2020 The script rarely rises above the schematics of a thousand thrillers that languish on late-night cable, and the almost willfully cliché dialogue sounds as if it’s been generated by some kind of free-with-purchase screenwriting app. Leah Greenblatt,, "Will Smith doubles down, but can't save the stale thriller Gemini Man," 8 Oct. 2019 His quick, initial mix of the album—done before the job was handed to Lord-Alge—languished on tapes buried in the basement of the Replacements’ guitarist Slim Dunlap for decades. Jason Heller, The Atlantic, "The Flawed Glory of the Replacements’ Don’t Tell a Soul," 8 Oct. 2019 The Astros have pulled similar tricks with Gerrit Cole (languishing on the Pirates) and Ryan Pressley (underappreciated on the Twins). Jon Tayler,, "The Astros Seem to Know Something About Pitching No One Else Does," 6 Aug. 2019 Venezuelans have faced similar intimidation in other Latin American countries where many accuse them of stealing jobs in nations with languishing economies by working for less. Washington Post, "Street singing Venezuelan migrant gets chance of a lifetime," 2 Aug. 2019

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

25 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Languish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 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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