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

This attention to detail, keeping the French Quarter trapped in a calcified past, requires money and wherewithal, of course, that other parts of the city, languishing and decaying, do not have. Sarah M. Broom, The New Yorker, "Who Stays Gone, and Who Can Afford to Return," 12 Aug. 2019 The thought of this Astros lineup languishing or struggling seemed silly. Chandler Rome, Houston Chronicle, "Astros edge Orioles for 7th straight win," 9 Aug. 2019 The industry’s share prices languish a fifth below their level a year ago (see chart). The Economist, "American steel tariffs cut both ways for domestic producers," 8 Aug. 2019 The film, which languished in development hell for years due to Scorsese’s ambitions to de-age his stars up to 30 years through CGI. Andrew R. Chow, Time, "The 32 Most Anticipated Movies of Fall 2019," 7 Aug. 2019 The Legislature has embraced some animal welfare legislation in recent years, but other bills have languished, MacFall said. Skyler Swisher,, "Declawing your destructive cat may be outlawed in Florida," 2 Aug. 2019 Western governors not getting traction Hickenlooper does not bear sole responsibility for his languishing campaign. Nic Garcia, The Denver Post, "John Hickenlooper’s presidential campaign is on pundits’ death watch," 1 Aug. 2019 While the original cast expressed enthusiasm for a sequel in the wake of Zombieland's success, their enthusiasm waned as the project languished for several years. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Zombies have evolved to be harder to kill in Zombieland 2: Double Tap trailer," 25 July 2019 Adele Morgan On Monday, fresh data showed that a measure of U.S. home-builder confidence slipped in June, a sign of languishing sentiment in an important sector of the economy. Gunjan Banerji, WSJ, "U.S. Stocks Climb Ahead of Central-Bank Meetings," 17 June 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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Statistics for languish

Last Updated

18 Aug 2019

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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

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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More from Merriam-Webster on languish

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with languish

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for languish

Spanish Central: Translation of languish

Nglish: Translation of languish for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of languish for Arabic Speakers

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).


a period when something is suspended

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