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See more synonyms for famish on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with or without object) Archaic.
  1. to suffer or cause to suffer extreme hunger; starve.
  2. to starve to death.
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Origin of famish

1350–1400; Middle English famisshe, equivalent to famen to starve (< Anglo-French, Middle French afamer < Vulgar Latin *affamāre, equivalent to Latin af- af- + famāre, derivative of famēs hunger) + -isshe -ish2
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

abstain, forbear, diet, refrain, starve, famish

Examples from the Web for famish

Historical Examples

  • I sat on a hay-stack, and spoke nothing for some hours; for I was to famish them from words.

    George Fox

    George Fox

  • Never varlets So triumph'd o'er an old fat man: I was famish'd.

  • Already languishing from sheer fatigue, must she now famish also?

    A Gentleman Player

    Robert Neilson Stephens

  • I famish to begin again—and I will make time for that, and the girls too!

    The Young Step-Mother

    Charlotte M. Yonge

  • Relief must soon come from some quarter, else many in this community will famish.

British Dictionary definitions for famish


  1. (now usually passive) to be or make very hungry or weak
  2. archaic to die or cause to die from starvation
  3. Irish to make very coldI was famished with the cold
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Derived Formsfamishment, noun

Word Origin

C14: from Old French afamer, via Vulgar Latin, from Latin famēs famine
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

Word Origin and History for famish


c.1400, famyschen, alteration of famen (late 14c.), a shortening of Old French afamer, from Vulgar Latin *affamare "to bring to hunger," from ad famem, from Latin fames "hunger" (see famine).

Ending changed mid-14c. to -ish under influence of ravish, anguish, etc. The intransitive sense is from 1520s. Related: Famished; famishing.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper