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 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 Are some people more likely to languish than others? Claire Gillespie,, "People Are 'Languishing' as the COVID-19 Pandemic Continues—Here's What That Means," 21 Apr. 2021 Traditionally, the House has passed a litany of reform measures that languish in the Senate. Dave Boucher, Detroit Free Press, "Bipartisan bills create new penalties for unethical lawmakers, curb revolving door," 20 Apr. 2021 There was an implicit asymmetry present that, in hindsight, left Black Rob’s talents to languish. Jayson Buford, Rolling Stone, "Black Rob Deserved So Much More," 20 Apr. 2021 According to new state data, some job sectors of the state’s economy continue to sputter or languish in hiring; others can’t find enough workers. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Utah’s jobless rate was 2.9% for March, the nation’s lowest," 16 Apr. 2021 And at the same time, compassion isn't just letting (the homeless) stay there and languish. Barnini Chakraborty, Washington Examiner, "Parents furious over homeless camp on school property — but board says it's teachable moment," 15 Apr. 2021 Jighere worried — often aloud — that Nigerians who started at the bottom of the economic ladder were practically doomed to languish there. Washington Post, "He was Nigeria’s biggest Scrabble star. The pandemic spelled identity crisis.," 30 Mar. 2021 That means the immigration measures will join a growing pile of liberal agenda items that have passed the House but are destined to languish because of Republican opposition in the Senate. Nicholas Fandos, New York Times, "House Votes to Give Millions of Dreamers and Farmworkers a Path to Citizenship," 18 Mar. 2021 In private, frustration is building among government agencies that see no end in sight and potentially dangerous overcrowding, especially for teens and children who are not supposed to languish in detention cells. Washington Post, "At border, record number of migrant youths wait in adult detention cells for longer than legally allowed," 11 Mar. 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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Time Traveler for languish

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

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Statistics for languish

Last Updated

6 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Languish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2021.

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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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