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

Other Words from languish

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

Examples of languish in a Sentence

older people, especially, were languishing during the prolonged heat wave
Recent Examples on the Web Get it right and your company grows and prospers; struggle to find the right talent and your company will languish. Jason Schoettler, Forbes, 20 Oct. 2021 Here, where vacant strip malls languish, overgrown fields poorly hide debris and bus stops are crowded with workers awaiting sporadic transit, residents have learned not to expect much from their local government. Washington Post, 10 Nov. 2021 Some party officials and allies of the White House worry that the combination of benign neglect for early bundlers and the potential for voting legislation to languish could hamper fund-raising in 2022 and beyond. New York Times, 4 Nov. 2021 But by the 1980s French Fumé began to languish as Sancerre started to soar. Lettie Teague, WSJ, 29 July 2021 After that, many detainees were left to languish in crowded cells with poor sanitation and substandard food. Washington Post, 19 Oct. 2021 No matter their clout in Hollywood, filmmakers and actors have always been subject to bosses who decide which movies get to soar at the box office and which are left to languish. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, 10 Sep. 2021 The reality is that these subpoenas will likely end up in court and could languish for years just like the congressional subpoenas in the Trump impeachment trial. Joe Lockhart, CNN, 13 Oct. 2021 Battery recycling is sprouting across the nation as capacity is added and new techniques come on line, although Spangenberger believes many sources of metal still languish in junk drawers and closets. Debra Utacia Krol, The Arizona Republic, 2 Oct. 2021

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

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Last Updated

26 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Languish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.

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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 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.

More from Merriam-Webster on languish

Nglish: Translation of languish for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of languish for Arabic Speakers


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