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[fish-ing] /ˈfɪʃ ɪŋ/
the act of catching fish.
the technique, occupation, or diversion of catching fish.
a place or facility for catching fish.
Origin of fishing
1250-1300; Middle English fisshing. See fish, -ing1


[fish] /fɪʃ/
noun, plural (especially collectively) fish (especially referring to two or more kinds or species) fishes.
any of various cold-blooded, aquatic vertebrates, having gills, commonly fins, and typically an elongated body covered with scales.
(loosely) any of various other aquatic animals.
the flesh of fishes used as food.
Fishes, Astronomy, Astrology. the constellation or sign of Pisces.
Informal. a person:
an odd fish; a poor fish.
a long strip of wood, iron, etc., used to strengthen a mast, joint, etc.
Cards Slang. an incompetent player whose incompetence can be exploited.
Slang. a dollar:
He sold the car for 500 fish.
Slang. a new prison inmate.
verb (used with object)
to catch or attempt to catch (any species of fish or the like).
to try to catch fish in (a stream, lake, etc.):
Let's fish the creek.
to draw, as by fishing (often followed by up or out):
He fished a coin out of his pocket for the boy.
to search through, as by fishing.
  1. to secure (an anchor) by raising the flukes.
  2. to reinforce (a mast or other spar) by fastening a spar, batten, metal bar, or the like, lengthwise over a weak place.
verb (used without object)
to catch or attempt to catch fish, as by angling or drawing a net.
to search carefully:
He fished through all his pockets but his wallet was gone.
to seek to obtain something indirectly or by artifice:
to fish for compliments; to fish for information.
to search for or attempt to catch onto something under water, in mud, etc., by the use of a dredge, rake, hook, or the like.
to attempt to recover detached tools or other loose objects from an oil or gas well.
Verb phrases
fish out, to deplete (a lake, stream, etc.) of fish by fishing.
drink like a fish, to drink alcoholic beverages to excess:
Nobody invites him out because he drinks like a fish.
fish in troubled waters, to take advantage of troubled or uncertain conditions for personal profit.
fish or cut bait, to choose a definite course of action, especially to decide whether to participate in or retreat from an activity.
fish out of water, a person out of his or her proper or accustomed environment:
He felt like a fish out of water in an academic atmosphere.
neither fish nor fowl, having no specific character or conviction; neither one nor the other.
other fish to fry, other matters requiring attention:
When it was time to act, they had other fish to fry.
before 900; (noun) Middle English fis(c)h, fyssh, Old English fisc; cognate with Dutch vis, German Fisch, Old Norse fiskr, Gothic fisks; akin to Latin piscis, Irish iasc; (v.) Middle English fishen, Old English fiscian, cognate with Dutch visschen, German fischen, Old Norse fiska, Gothic fiskôn
Related forms
fishless, adjective
fishlike, adjective
outfish, verb (used with object)
unfished, adjective
Can be confused
fiche, fish. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for fishing
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She found a scene of industry in the village, for the fishing had started in earnest.

    The Huntress Hulbert Footner
  • Mr Enderby had been talking with him about fishing this afternoon.

    Deerbrook Harriet Martineau
  • There is no surer way to find birds' nests than to go berrying or fishing.

    Under the Maples John Burroughs
  • The boy and I had started out from camp for an hour of evening fishing.

    Days Off Henry Van Dyke
  • They had done so well at fishing that they could afford to have servants to help them.

    The King Nobody Wanted Norman F. Langford
British Dictionary definitions for fishing


  1. the occupation of catching fish
  2. (as modifier): a fishing match
another word for piscary (sense 2)
adjective piscatorial


noun (pl) fish, fishes
  1. any of a large group of cold-blooded aquatic vertebrates having jaws, gills, and usually fins and a skin covered in scales: includes the sharks and rays (class Chondrichthyes: cartilaginous fishes) and the teleosts, lungfish, etc (class Osteichthyes: bony fishes)
  2. (in combination): fishpond, related adjectives ichthyic ichthyoid piscine
any of various similar but jawless vertebrates, such as the hagfish and lamprey
(not in technical use) any of various aquatic invertebrates, such as the cuttlefish, jellyfish, and crayfish
the flesh of fish used as food
(informal) a person of little emotion or intelligence: a poor fish
short for fishplate
Also called tin fish an informal word for torpedo (sense 1)
a fine kettle of fish, an awkward situation; mess
drink like a fish, to drink (esp alcohol) to excess
have other fish to fry, to have other activities to do, esp more important ones
like a fish out of water, out of one's usual place
(Irish) make fish of one and flesh of another, to discriminate unfairly between people
neither fish, flesh, nor fowl, neither this nor that
(intransitive) to attempt to catch fish, as with a line and hook or with nets, traps, etc
(transitive) to fish in (a particular area of water)
to search (a body of water) for something or to search for something, esp in a body of water
(intransitive) foll by for. to seek something indirectly: to fish for compliments
See also fish out
Derived Forms
fishable, adjective
fishlike, adjective
Word Origin
Old English fisc; related to Old Norse fiskr, Gothic fiscs, Russian piskar, Latin piscis


noun acronym
fluorescence in situ hybridization, a technique for detecting and locating gene mutations and chromosome abnormalities
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for fishing

verbal noun from fish (v.), c.1300, fysschynge; figurative use from 1540s. Fishing rod (1550s) is older than fishing pole (1791). To "go fishing" is as old as Old English on fiscoð gan.

[O]f all diversions which ingenuity ever devised for the relief of idleness, fishing is the worst qualified to amuse a man who is at once indolent and impatient. [Scott, "Waverly," 1814]



Old English fisc, from Proto-Germanic *fiskaz (cf. Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old High German fisc, Old Norse fiskr, Middle Dutch visc, Dutch vis, German Fisch, Gothic fisks), from PIE *peisk- "fish" (cf. Latin piscis, Irish iasc, and, via Latin, Italian pesce, French poisson, Spanish pez, Welsh pysgodyn, Breton pesk).

Fish story attested from 1819, from the tendency to exaggerate the size of the catch (or the one that got away). Figurative sense of fish out of water first recorded 1610s.


Old English fiscian (cf. Old Norse fiska, Old High German fiscon, German fischen, Gothic fiskon), from the root of fish (n.). Related: Fished; fishing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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fishing in Science

Plural fish or fishes
Any of numerous cold-blooded vertebrate animals that live in water. Fish have gills for obtaining oxygen, a lateral line for sensing pressure changes in the water, and a vertical tail. Most fish are covered with scales and have limbs in the form of fins. Fish were once classified together as a single group, but are now known to compose numerous evolutionarily distinct classes, including the bony fish, cartilaginous fish, jawless fish, lobe-finned fish, and placoderms.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for fishing


Related Terms

go fishing



  1. A new inmate: As a ''fish'' at Charlestown, I was physically miserable (1870s+ Prison)
  2. A nonmember of a street gang; a person regarded as inimical and distasteful by a street gang (1950s+ Street gang)
  3. A weak or stupid person, esp one easily victimized; patsy, sucker: Why should he be the fish for the big guys?/ The superteams get stronger. They can pad their schedules with the occasional fish (1753+)
  4. A person, esp a criminal, thought of as being caught like a fish: The cops catch a lot of very interesting fish (1885+)
  5. A heterosexual woman (1970s+ Homosexuals)
  6. A prostitute; hooker •Fish meant ''vulva'' by the 1890s and retained the meaning, at least in black English, until at least the 1930s (1930s+)
  7. A dollar: The job paid only fifty fish (1920+)
  8. tin fish •Fish torpedo is found by 1876 (1928+)


  1. To seek information, esp by a legal or quasi-legal process having a very general aim; go fishing (1563+)
  2. To ask for something, usually a compliment, esp in an indirect and apparently modest way (1803+)

Related Terms

big fish, bigger fish to fry, cold fish, fine kettle of fish, go fishing, kettle of fish, like shooting fish in a barrel, poor fish, queer fish, tin fish

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Related Abbreviations for fishing


first in, still here
The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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fishing in the Bible

called _dag_ by the Hebrews, a word denoting great fecundity (Gen. 9:2; Num. 11:22; Jonah 2:1, 10). No fish is mentioned by name either in the Old or in the New Testament. Fish abounded in the Mediterranean and in the lakes of the Jordan, so that the Hebrews were no doubt acquainted with many species. Two of the villages on the shores of the Sea of Galilee derived their names from their fisheries, Bethsaida (the "house of fish") on the east and on the west. There is probably no other sheet of water in the world of equal dimensions that contains such a variety and profusion of fish. About thirty-seven different kinds have been found. Some of the fishes are of a European type, such as the roach, the barbel, and the blenny; others are markedly African and tropical, such as the eel-like silurus. There was a regular fish-market apparently in Jerusalem (2 Chr. 33:14; Neh. 3:3; 12:39; Zeph. 1:10), as there was a fish-gate which was probably contiguous to it. Sidon is the oldest fishing establishment known in history.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Idioms and Phrases with fishing
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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