[ kat-fish ]


, plural (especially collectively) cat·fish, (especially referring to two or more kinds or species) cat·fish·es.
  1. any of the numerous fishes of the order or suborder Nematognathi (or Siluroidei), characterized by barbels around the mouth and the absence of scales.
  2. a wolffish of the genus Anarhichas.
  3. any of various other fishes having a fancied resemblance to a cat.
  4. Slang. a person who assumes a false identity or personality on the internet, especially on social media websites, as to deceive, manipulate, or swindle.

verb (used with or without object)

  1. Slang. to deceive, swindle, etc., by assuming a false identity or personality online:

    He fell in love with her online before he realized he'd been catfished.


/ ˈkætˌfɪʃ /


  1. any of numerous mainly freshwater teleost fishes having whisker-like barbels around the mouth, esp the silurids of Europe and Asia and the horned pouts of North America
  2. another name for wolffish

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Word History and Origins

Origin of catfish1

First recorded in 1605–15; cat + fish

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Example Sentences

I love spending time on our family’s ranch just north of Laredo, the kids’ cheeks flushed with heat as they drop food in the dam for the catfish that roil the murky water.

From Time

For proof, taste the cafe’s fresh local chicken sprinkled with herbs and slow-baked to succulence, or catfish dusted with cornmeal and flour and fried to a beautiful shade of gold.

After your run, take a boat out on the lake, go for a swim, or cast for catfish and bass.

On “The Circle,” contestants living in their own apartments talk to each other through a social media-like chat platform, with the goal of becoming the top influencer and sniffing out catfishes.

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.

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.

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.”


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More About Catfish

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.

There are a number of motivations for the practice of catfishing, including financial gain, cyberbullying, identity exploration, and crime-fighting.

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.




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