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

The department also faced criticism for its low homicide solution rate, which has languished at about 50 percent for years. Adam Ferrise,, "Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has spent years fighting gun and gang violence, and now it is on the doorstep of his home," 10 Sep. 2019 He was charged after his DNA was compared to an untested rape kit that had languished in storage and discovered in 2009 along with 11,000 other kits, the paper reports. CBS News, "Man linked by DNA to 1997 rape freed after old photograph ID's him as victim's ex," 24 July 2019 The tower and its eight-story companion building fill the north side of Folsom Street between First and Fremont streets — a site that languished as a parking lot after the freeway ramps that blighted it were removed in the mid-1990s. John King,, "Chiseled glass tower offers window into SF’s contradictions," 18 July 2019 Instead, Orliński’s album is made up largely of works that have never been recorded before, and that have languished since the eighteenth century. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, "A Millennial Countertenor’s Pop-Star Appeal," 15 July 2019 The New York Democrat was a lead sponsor of the controversial Green New Deal that has languished in Congress. Ledyard King, USA TODAY, "'A moral imperative:' AOC, Bernie Sanders call for climate emergency declaration," 9 July 2019 Soon Wyse was able to zip up a Marc Jacobs dress that had languished in her closet for months. Tatiana Boncompagni, Harper's BAZAAR, "Inside Hollywood's Dangerous Anti-Aging Secret," 21 May 2019 The appeal of a subscription plan is especially strong for a company like Lyft, which languishes in second place behind its much larger rival Uber. Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge, "Lyft’s monthly subscription plan is now available nationwide," 16 Oct. 2018 Less high profile cases also can languish in bureaucracy, Hopkins students say. Liz Bowie,, "Here’s what happened when Maryland students forced colleges to confront sexual assault," 27 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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Statistics for languish

Last Updated

15 Sep 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 spread over or through

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