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

On Monday, a federal judge blocked a policy that would require asylum seekers to languish in Mexico while their cases were adjudicated in the States. Lynn Yaeger, Vogue, "The Week in Washington: An Outrageous Abuse of Power," 14 Apr. 2019 Although analysts say companies are on their best financial footing in years, more investors fear stocks are going to languish in the second half of the year. Daniel Kruger, WSJ, "Outflows From U.S. Stocks Swell as Investors Seek Refuge in Bonds," 26 July 2018 That’s at least partially because of privileged standing, which leads cases against politicians to languish in the justice system because every time a defendant changes jobs, his standing changes and the case moves to a new court. Washington Post, "Senior politicians in Brazil could soon face swifter justice," 1 May 2018 For more than a month, Bradley has allowed the bill to languish in his committee, citing concerns that the bill would allow police to view people’s cellphones and could lead to racial profiling. By Lawrence Mower, miamiherald, "Prospects for ‘texting while driving’ bill look dim. Privacy, profiling are concerns. | Miami Herald," 26 Feb. 2018 Apple’s return to its old, languishing product lines does not mean the company has run out of ideas. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "Apple's New Macs Are the Ones You've Been Waiting on For Years," 30 Oct. 2018 Your scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) just trounced cities like Cleveland, Detroit and Baltimore who keep languishing near the bottom of national rankings. Patrick O'donnell,, "Vast poverty differences create unfair comparisons on Nation's Report Card," 13 Apr. 2018 Another victory for Real would be a perfect sendoff for manager Zinedine Zidane -- who is expected to quit or be pushed out at the end of the season given Madrid languishes 15 points behind Barcelona in La Liga. CNN, "Champions League: English clubs Manchester City and Liverpool paired in quarterfinals," 16 Mar. 2018 Spirit’s shares are up more than 25% this year, while most other airlines’ stocks have languished. Alison Sider, WSJ, "From Tardy to On-Time: Spirit Airlines Tries to Shed Old Image," 27 Dec. 2018

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

26 May 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).


to mark by some ceremony or observation

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