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From Middle English fisch, from Old English fisċ (“fish”), from Proto-West Germanic *fisk, from Proto-Germanic *fiskaz (“fish”) (compare West Frisian fisk, Dutch vis, Danish fisk, Norwegian fisk, Swedish fisk, German Fisch), from Proto-Indo-European *peysḱ- (“fish”) (compare Irish iasc, Latin piscis). Found only in West Indo-European languages, namely the Italic, Celtic and Germanic branches. Perhaps derived from *peh₂- (“to feed, to guard, to nourish”) and thus cognate to Proto-Slavic *piťa (“food”), Sanskrit पितु (pitu, “food”), Lithuanian piẽtūs (“lunch”), Old Irish ith (“corn”), Latin pānis (“bread”), English food and German Futter (“fodder”).


  • enPR: fĭsh, IPA(key)/fɪʃ/
  • (General New Zealand) IPA(key)/fɘʃ/


fish (countable and uncountableplural fish or fishes)

  1. (countable) A cold-blooded vertebrate animal that lives in water, moving with the help of fins and breathing with gills.
    Salmon is a fish.
    The fishmonger sells fishes from all over the world.
    Ichthyologists study the fish of the world.
    We have many fish in our aquarium.
  2. (archaic or loosely) Any animal (or any vertebrate) that lives exclusively in water.
  3. (Newfoundland) Cod; codfish.
  4. (uncountable) The flesh of the fish used as food.
    The seafood pasta had lots of fish but not enough pasta.
    Though Lena is a vegetarian, she doesn’t have any problem with eating fish.
  5. (uncountable) A card game in which the object is to obtain cards in pairs or sets of four (depending on the variation), by asking the other players for cards of a particular rank.
  6. (uncountable, derogatory, slang) A woman.
  7. (countable, slang) An easy victim for swindling.
  8. (countable, poker slang) A bad poker player. Compare shark (a good poker player).
  9. (countable, nautical) A makeshift overlapping longitudinal brace, originally shaped roughly like a fish, used to temporarily repair or extend a spar or mast of a ship.
  10. (nautical) A purchase used to fish the anchor.
  11. (countable, nautical, military) A torpedo (the self-propelled explosive device).
  12. (zoology) A paraphyletic grouping of the following extant taxonomic groups:
    1. Class Myxini, the hagfish (no vertebra)
    2. Class Petromyzontida, the lampreys (no jaw)
    3. Within infraphylum Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates (also including Tetrapoda)
      1. Class Chondrichthyes, cartilaginous fish such as sharks and rays
      2. Superclass Osteichthyes, bony fish.
  13. (cartomancy) The thirty-fourth Lenormand card.
  14. (prison slang) a new (usually vulnerable) prisoner

Usage notes

The collective plural of fish is normally fish in the UK, except in archaic texts where fishes may be encountered; in the US, fishes is encountered as well, but much less commonly. When referring to two or more kinds of fish, the plural is fishes.


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