n. pl. fish or fish·es
1. Any of numerous cold-blooded aquatic vertebrates characteristically having fins, gills, and a streamlined body and including the bony fishes, such as catfishes and tunas, and the cartilaginous fishes, such as sharks and rays.
2. Any of various jawless aquatic craniates, including the lampreys and hagfishes.
3. The flesh of such animals used as food.
4. Informal A person, especially one considered deficient in something: a poor fish.
v. fished, fish·ing, fish·es
1. To catch or try to catch fish.
2. To look for something by feeling one's way; grope: fished in both pockets for a coin.
3. To seek something in a sly or indirect way: fish for compliments.
a. To catch or try to catch (fish).
b. To catch or try to catch fish in: fish mountain streams.
2. To catch or pull as if fishing: deftly fished the corn out of the boiling water.
To deplete (a lake, for example) of fish by fishing.
fish or cut bait Informal
To proceed with an activity or abandon it altogether.
like a fish out of water
Completely unfamiliar with one's surroundings or activity.
neither fish nor fowl
Having no specific characteristics; indefinite.
other fish to fry Informal
Other matters to attend to: He declined to come along to the movie, saying he had other fish to fry.
[Middle English, from Old English fisc.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.