1. a small, southern European, marine fish, Sardina pilchardus, related to the herring but smaller and rounder.
  2. any of several related fishes, as Sardinops caeruleus, common off the California coast.

Origin of pilchard

First recorded in 1520–30; earlier pilcher; origin uncertain
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for pilchard

Historical Examples of pilchard

  • She was building for the pilchard season and was to be ready for the middle of June.

    A Singer from the Sea

    Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

  • “I never saw a pilchard,” said Arthur, suddenly beginning to dress.


    George Manville Fenn

  • Most of the inhabitants are engaged in the pilchard and herring fishery.

  • "Had a letter from the company today," Pilchard observed, suddenly.

  • See here, Pilchard, it's time we came to some understanding.

British Dictionary definitions for pilchard


  1. a European food fish, Sardina (or Clupea) pilchardus, with a rounded body covered with large scales: family Clupeidae (herrings)
  2. a related fish, Sardinops neopilchardus, of S Australian waters

Word Origin for pilchard

C16: pylcher, of obscure origin
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 pilchard

fish of the herring family, 1540s, earlier pilcher (1520s), of unknown origin. The -d- is "excrescent" [OED].

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper