fish

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See also: Fish, The Fish, and FISH

English[edit]

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Pronunciation[edit]

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English, from Old English fisc, from Proto-Germanic *fiskaz (compare West Frisian/Swedish fisk, Dutch vis, German Fisch), from Proto-Indo-European *pik̑sk̑os, *pisḱ- (compare Irish iasc, Latin piscis, Russian пискарь (piskárĭ) 'groundling', Sanskrit picchā 'calf (leg)', picchila, picchala 'slimy, slippery').

Noun[edit]

fish (countable and uncountable, plural 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.
    God created all the fishes of the world.
    God created all the fish of the world.
    We have many fish in our aquarium.
  2. (possibly archaic) Any animal that lives exclusively in water.
    • 1774, Oliver Goldsmith, History of the Earth and Animated Nature, Volume IV:
      The whale, the limpet, the tortoise and the oyster… as men have been willing to give them all the name of fishes, it is wisest for us to conform.
  3. (uncountable) The flesh of the fish used as food.
    • 2012 March, “Flexing your brain”, Consumer Reports on Health, volume 24, number 3, page 9: 
      Include low-mercury fish in your diet (such as salmon) and eat at least five servings a day of fruit and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, broccoli, and cauliflower. Avoid saturated and trans fats, which may hasten brain aging.
    The seafood pasta had lots of fish but not enough pasta.
  4. (countable) A period of time spent fishing.
    The fish at the lake didn't prove successful.
  5. (countable) An instance of seeking something.
    Merely two fishes for information told the whole story.
  6. (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.
  7. (uncountable, derogatory, slang) A woman.
  8. (countable, slang) An easy victim for swindling.
  9. (countable, poker slang) A bad poker player.
  10. (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.
  11. (nautical) A purchase used to fish the anchor.
  12. (countable, nautical) A torpedo.
    • 1977, Richard O'Kane, Clear the Bridge: The War Patrols of the U.S.S. Tang, Ballantine Books (2003), page 344:
      The second and third fish went to the middle of her long superstructure and under her forward deck.
  13. (zoology) A polyphyletic 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.
Usage notes[edit]

The collective plural of fish is always fish in the UK; in the US, fishes is encountered as well. When referring to two or more kinds of fish, the plural is fishes.

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Etymology 2[edit]

From Old English fiscian, from Proto-Germanic *fiskōną.

Verb[edit]

fish (third-person singular simple present fishes, present participle fishing, simple past and past participle fished)

  1. (intransitive) To try to catch fish, whether successfully or not.
    She went to the river to fish for trout.
  2. (transitive) To try to find something other than fish in (a body of water).
    They fished the surrounding lakes for the dead body.
  3. (intransitive) To attempt to find or get hold of an object by searching among other objects.
    Why are you fishing through my things?
    He was fishing for the keys in his pocket.
  4. (intransitive, followed by "around") To attempt to obtain information by talking to people.
    The detective visited the local pubs fishing around for more information.
  5. (intransitive, cricket) Of a batsman, to attempt to hit a ball outside off stump and miss it.
  6. (transitive, figuratively, followed by "for") To attempt to gain.
    The actors loitered at the door, fishing for compliments.
  7. (nautical) To repair a spar or mast using a brace often called a fish (see NOUN above).
    • 1970, James Henderson, The Frigates, an account of the lesser warships of the wars from 1793 to 1815, Wordsworth (1998), page 143:
      [] the crew were set to replacing and splicing the rigging and fishing the spars.
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Etymology 3[edit]

Borrowing from French fiche (peg, mark).

Noun[edit]

fish (plural fishes)

  1. (obsolete) A counter, used in various games.

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.

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