noun, plural (especially collectively) cat·fish, (especially referring to two or more kinds or species) cat·fish·es.
verb (used with or without object)
QUIZ YOURSELF ON THE MANY TYPES OF NOUNS
Words nearby catfish
BEHIND THE WORD
What does catfish mean?
Aside from being a delicious kind of river fish, a catfish is a slang term for someone who seduces a person with a false identity online.
Where does catfish come from?
The 2010 documentary Catfish, directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman about a young man getting romantically duped by a woman with a fake Facebook profile, takes its name from a tale long told about catfish—that fishers would ship catfish with codfish because they would keep the codfish alert, active, and better tasting.
That fishy story originates as a kind of Christian parable recorded by the early 1900s, but the documentary popularized catfish as a metaphor for a person who seduces another with a fake profile, pretending to be someone more attractive, successful, interesting, or sympathetic—keeping the seduced “on their toes” like codfish swimming with catfish. This is what happened to the subject of Catfish, Nev Schulman, who discovers that the woman he developed an online relationship had completely made up her profile.
The documentary spawned MTV’s reality show Catfish: The TV Show in November 2012, co-hosted by Nev Schulman. It follows people in online relationships, seeking to find out if they are getting catfished.
Catfish rose to prominence in 2013 when University of Notre Dame star football player Manti Te’o found himself catfished by a man pretending to be his girlfriend. The term further grew thanks to the spread of social media and online dating in the 2010s.
How is catfish used in real life?
Catfish can be a noun or a verb, with the impersonator sometimes called the catfish.
While early uses of the term centered on people creating false identities through fake accounts, the term has broadened to anyone who misleadingly presents themselves online as better in some way than they are in real life, often their looks or success. This—milder if widespread practice, as you’ll well know if you’ve ever been on Tinder or anywhere on social media for that matter—is sometimes called kittenfishing.
More examples of catfish:
“Personally Andy has never had need of dating apps like Bumble and Tinder because he met his wife of 14 years the old fashioned way – down the pub…But his background in criminal intelligence, he is qualified to be the perfect catfish hunter and can work with as little as a profile picture, address and contact details.”
—Becky Pemberton, The Sun, August, 2018
This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.
Example sentences from the Web for catfish
Its competitors don’t use this method to see who’s a catfish and who isn’t, because they don’t want to out anyone that doesn’t want to be outed.
Latta, home to the historic Catfish Creek Baptist Church, is a predominantly white town of 1,500 in Dillon County.South Carolina Town Loves Its Lesbian Police Chief|Olivia Nuzzi|June 26, 2014|DAILY BEAST
A sop to lawmakers who represent congressional districts consisting entirely of catfish ponds.
They claim FDA did not have proper resources to inspect imported catfish.
Bad news is that foreign fishermen will have to bring each catfish to Washington for inspection.
Good news is that $20 million DoA catfish office has comfy chairs and recent issues of catfish newsletters and magazines.
I catched a good big catfish, too, and Jim cleaned him with his knife, and fried him.
I catched a catfish and haggled him open with my saw, and towards sundown I started my camp fire and had supper.
Channel catfish from stations W-3, A-3, and C-5 were taken on hook and line.Fishes of Chautauqua, Cowley and Elk Counties, Kansas|Artie L. Metcalf
It is situated a short distance over the top of the hill leading up from Catfish, and a little over a mile from Washington.
He opened up business in 1781, and was licensed by the court to dispense the ardent at “Catfish Camp.”