noun, plural (especially collectively) her·ring, (especially referring to two or more kinds or species) her·rings.

an important food fish, Clupea harengus harengus, found in enormous shoals in the North Atlantic.
a similar fish, Clupea harengus pallasii, of the North Pacific.
any fish of the family Clupeidae, including herrings, shads, and sardines.
any of various fishes resembling the herring but of unrelated families.

Origin of herring

before 900; Middle English hering, Old English hǣring; cognate with German Häring
Related formsher·ring·like, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for herring

Contemporary Examples of herring

Historical Examples of herring

  • The professor, who was a kind-hearted man, drew a herring across the scent.

  • You are as thin as a French herring, you know, with a yard and a half of throat.

    The Channings

    Mrs. Henry Wood

  • Thus the common expression, 'As dead as a herring,' is due to them.


    Benjamin Taylor

  • They hung around her like a passel of gulls around a herring boat.

    Cape Cod Stories

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • "He turned his herring yonder night when he left goodbye to the four of us," he said.

    The Manxman

    Hall Caine

British Dictionary definitions for herring


noun plural -rings or -ring

any marine soft-finned teleost fish of the family Clupeidae, esp Clupea harengus, an important food fish of northern seas, having an elongated body covered, except in the head region, with large fragile silvery scales

Word Origin for herring

Old English hǣring; related to Old High German hāring, Old Frisian hēring, Dutch haring
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 herring

Old English hering (Anglian), hæring (West Saxon), from West Germanic *heringgaz (cf. Old Frisian hereng, Middle Dutch herinc, German Hering), of unknown origin, perhaps related to or influenced in form by Old English har "gray, hoar," from the color, or to Old High German heri "host, multitude" from its large schools.

French hareng, Italian aringa are from Germanic. The Battle of the Herrings (French bataille des harengs) is the popular name for the battle at Rouvrai, Feb. 12, 1492, fought in defense of a convoy of provisions, mostly herrings and other "lenten stuffe."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with herring


see dead as a doornail (herring); red herring.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.