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From Middle English languysshen, from the present participle stem of Anglo-Norman and Middle French languir, from Late Latin languīre, alteration of Latin languēre (to be faint, unwell).

Compare languor and lax.
Cognate with slack.


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /ˈlæŋ.ɡwɪʃ/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -æŋɡwɪʃ


languish (third-person singular simple present languishes, present participle languishing, simple past and past participle languished)

  1. (intransitive) To lose strength and become weak; to be in a state of weakness or sickness. [from 14th c.]
  2. (intransitive) To pine away in longing for something; to have low spirits, especially from lovesickness. [from 14th c.]
    He languished without his girlfriend
  3. (intransitive) To live in miserable or disheartening conditions. [from 15th c.]
    He languished in prison for years
  4. (intransitive) To be neglected; to make little progress, be unsuccessful. [from 17th c.]
    The case languished for years before coming to trial.
  5. (transitive, obsolete) To make weak; to weaken, devastate. [15th–17th c.]
  6. (intransitive, now rare) To affect a languid air, especially disingenuously. [from 18th c.]
    • 1815, Jane Austen, Emma:
      He is an excellent young man, and will suit Harriet exactly: it will be an "exactly so," as he says himself; but he does sigh and languish, and study for compliments rather more than I could endure as a principal.
    • a. 1833, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Eleänore”, in Poems, page 31:
      His bowstring slackened, languid Love, / Leaning his cheek upon his hand, / Droops both his wings, regarding thee, / And so would languish evermore, / Serene, imperial Eleänore.

Related terms[edit]