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.

Origin of fish

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 formsfish·less, adjectivefish·like, adjectiveout·fish, verb (used with object)un·fished, adjective
Can be confusedfiche fish Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for fishes

troll, trawl, angle, chum, extricate, bob, cast, produce, bait, net, extract, find, seine

Examples from the Web for fishes

Contemporary Examples of fishes

Historical Examples of fishes

  • "I fancy it must be because you call them fishes and not fish," replied Vavasor.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • "Thou wouldst feed the fishes of the Darro," interrupted Ximen.

    Leila, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

  • In the walls were cages and ponds, where fishes and birds moved as though alive.

  • He 'blessed the condition of the birds, beasts, and fishes, for they had not a sinful nature.


    James Anthony Froude

  • Then he strayed down by the creek, as I have said, to tell his grief to the fishes.

British Dictionary definitions for fishes



the Fishes the constellation Pisces, the twelfth sign of the zodiac


n acronym for

fluorescence in situ hybridization, a technique for detecting and locating gene mutations and chromosome abnormalities


noun plural fish or 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 intelligencea poor fish
short for fishplate
Also called: tin fish an informal word for torpedo (def. 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
make fish of one and flesh of another Irish to discriminate unfairly between people
neither fish, flesh, nor fowl neither this nor that


(intr) to attempt to catch fish, as with a line and hook or with nets, traps, etc
(tr) 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
(intr foll by for) to seek something indirectlyto fish for compliments
See also fish out
Derived Formsfishable, adjectivefishlike, adjective

Word Origin for fish

Old English fisc; related to Old Norse fiskr, Gothic fiscs, Russian piskar, Latin piscis
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 fishes



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



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

fishes in Science



Plural fish 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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

fishes in Culture


Traditionally, a class of vertebrates that breathe with gills rather than lungs, live in water, and generally lay eggs, although some bear their young alive. Some biologists consider the fishes a “superclass,” and divide them into three classes: bony fishes, such as sunfish and cod; fishes with a skeleton formed of cartilage rather than bone, such as sharks; and fishes that lack jaws, such as lampreys.


The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with fishes


In addition to the idioms beginning with fish

  • fish for
  • fishing expedition
  • fish in troubled waters
  • fish or cut bait
  • fish out
  • fish out of water, a
  • fish story

also see:

  • big fish in a small pond
  • cold fish
  • drink like a fish
  • goldfish bowl
  • kettle of fish
  • like shooting fish in a barrel
  • neither fish nor fowl
  • not the only fish in the sea
  • other fish to fry
  • smell fishy
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.