per·​ish ˈper-ish How to pronounce perish (audio)
perished; perishing; perishes

intransitive verb

: to become destroyed or ruined : cease to exist
recollection of a past already long since perishedPhilip Sherrard
guard against your mistakes or your attempts (perish the thought) to cheatC. B. Davis
chiefly British : deteriorate, spoil

transitive verb

chiefly British : to cause to die : destroy

Example Sentences

Two people perished in the fire. The sailors perished at sea. The civilization perished after 500 years. Many ancient languages have perished over time. The rubber will perish with age.
Recent Examples on the Web Unfortunately, zebra shark clones tend to perish before reaching maturity. Gabe Allen, Discover Magazine, 19 Jan. 2023 Around 40% of Chinese people aged 80 and up have been triple-vaccinated, fueling concerns that roughly 1 million people could perish over the next few months. Time Staff, Time, 4 Jan. 2023 She was taken to Auschwitz, where some 1.1 million people, a vast majority of them Jews, would perish. Richard Goldstein, New York Times, 14 Aug. 2022 Indeed, Sarah has dealt with a lot over the past two seasons, culminating in the most recent finale, which saw Chip Estes return as her father, Ward Cameron, who appeared to perish earlier in season two. Ryan Gajewski, The Hollywood Reporter, 8 Apr. 2022 In the Seventies, more than one hundred million of them were sure to perish in a global famine. Michael Robbins, Harper’s Magazine , 9 Nov. 2022 The problem is not confined to ocean-going fishing vessels — on Lake Victoria in Africa, between 1,800-5,000 people per 100,000 are estimated to perish each year. Elaine Kurtenbach,, 3 Nov. 2022 In the new teaser, the passengers are working to uncover the truth before their death date, when they are all expected to perish. Stephanie Wenger, Peoplemag, 24 Sep. 2022 Yet the planet continues to warm and species continue to perish. Ginny Whitelaw, Forbes, 1 Aug. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'perish.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Middle English perisshen, from Anglo-French periss-, stem of perir, from Latin perire, from per- detrimentally + ire to go — more at per-, issue entry 1

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of perish was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near perish

Cite this Entry

“Perish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


per·​ish ˈper-ish How to pronounce perish (audio)
: to pass away completely : become destroyed

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