an awkward, difficult, or bad situation; muddle; mess: He's managed to get himself into a fine kettle of fish!
a state of affairs; a matter under consideration: The new proposal is quite a different kettle of fish from the last one.
Origin of kettle of fish
First recorded in 1735–45
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019
British Dictionary definitions for kettle of fish
a situation; state of affairs (often used ironically in the phrase a pretty or fine kettle of fish)
case; matter for considerationthat's quite a different kettle of fish
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
Idioms and Phrases with kettle of fish
Also, a fine or pretty kettle of fish. An unpleasant or messy predicament, as in They haven't spoken in years, and they're assigned to adjoining seats—that's a fine kettle of fish. This term alludes to the Scottish riverside picnic called kettle of fish, where freshly caught salmon were boiled and eaten out of hand. [Early 1700s]
a different or another kettle of fish. A very different matter or issue, not necessarily a bad one. For example, They're paying for the meal? That's a different kettle of fish. [First half of 1900s]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.