A boy holding a “fishy” (small fish) in his hand

From Middle English fishi, fischey, equivalent to fish +‎ -y.



fishy (plural fishies)

  1. (childish) Diminutive of fish.
    • 1846, “[Lullabies.] CCLXXVIII. [When the Boat Comes In.]”, in James Orchard Halliwell, editor, The Nursery Rhymes of England, Collected Chiefly from Oral Tradition, 4th edition, London: John Russell Smith, 4, Old Compton Street, Soho Square, OCLC 460602989, page 133:
      You shall have a fishy / In a little dishy; / You shall have a fishy / When the boat comes in.
    • 2013, April V. Costa, Fishies and Froggies in the Drain, Bloomington, Ind.: AuthorHouse, →ISBN:
      When Sachie got out of the tub and got her baby out of the tub her mom had her talk down the drain to the fishies and froggies. [] "Are you ready fishies? Are you ready froggies?" Both Sachie and mommy asked together. "One, two, three" they pulled out the plug. And they watched the water go down the drain.
    • 2014 May 19, Patricia Averill, “I Wish I were a Little—: Open Ended Songs”, in Camp Songs, Folk Songs, [Bloomington, Ind.]: Xlibris, →ISBN, page 304:
      I wish I were a fishy in the sea— / I wish I were a fishy in the sea— / I'd go swimming in the nudie without my bathing suity / Oh, I wish I were a fishy in the sea—

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Fish killed by water pollution. Rotting fish usually have a strong fishy odour (sense 1).


fishy (comparative fishier, superlative fishiest)

  1. Of, from, or similar to fish.
    What is that fishy odor?
    • 1722, Oppian; [William Diaper and John Jones, transl.], “The Fourth Book of Oppian’s Halieuticks”, in Oppian’s Halieuticks: Of the Nature of Fishes and Fishing of the Ancients in V. Books. Translated from the Greek, with an Account of Oppian’s Life and Writings, and a Catalogue of His Fishes, Oxford: Printed at the Theater, OCLC 972823582, lines 589–594, page 172:
      The ſwifteſt Ship beneath with ſudden Chains / In mid Career the fiſhy Bank detains. / The Wind all uſeleſs in the Canvas roars, / In vain the Sailors tug the ſticking Oars. / Fixt as a Rock the ſteady Throng abides; / The Ship as anchor'd in her Harbour rides.
    • 1731, “[The Natural History of the Flamingo, &c. by Dr. J. Douglas, N. 350. p. 523.]”, in Henry Jones, editor, The Philosophical Transactions (from the Year 1700, to the Year 1720.) Abridg’d, and Dispos’d under General Heads, volume V, part I (Zoology, &c. Anatomy, Physic, Chemistry), 2nd edition, London: Printed for J. and J. Knapton [et al.], OCLC 15675646, chap. I (Zoology, and the Anatomy of Animals), page 69:
      [William] Dampier. The Fleſh of both young and old is lean and black, yet very good Meat, taſting neither fiſhy nor unſavoury: A Diſh of Flamingo's Tongues being fit for a Prince's Table. They are large, having a large Knob of Fat at the Root, which is an excellent Bit.
    • 1852, Thomas Browne, “Of the Pictures of Mermaids, Unicorns, and some Others”, in Simon Wilkin, editor, The Works of Sir Thomas Browne, volume II (Containing the Three Last Books of Vulgar Errors, Religio Medici, and the Garden of Cyrus), London: Henry G[eorge] Bohn, York Street, Covent Garden, OCLC 421817, book V ([Pseudodoxia Epidemica.] The Particular Part Continued. Of Many Things Questionable as They are Commonly Described in Pictures; of Many Popular Customs, etc.), pages 59–61:
      Few eyes have escaped the pictures of mermaids; that is, according to Horace's monster, with a woman's head above, and fishy extremity below; and these are conceived to answer the shape of the ancient sirens that attempted upon Ulysses. Which notwithstanding were of another description, containing no fishy composure, but made up of man and bird: []
  2. Suspicious; inspiring doubt.
    I don't trust him; his claims seem fishy to me.
    • 1897 December (indicated as 1898), Winston Churchill, chapter 3, in The Celebrity: An Episode, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., OCLC 222716698:
      Now all this was very fine, but not at all in keeping with the Celebrity's character as I had come to conceive it. The idea that adulation ever cloyed on him was ludicrous in itself. In fact I thought the whole story fishy, and came very near to saying so.
    • 1973, Matt Braun, chapter 5, in El Paso, New York, N.Y.: St. Martin's Paperbacks, →ISBN; reprinted New York, N.Y.: St. Martin's Paperbacks, July 1999, page 236:
      There was something more to this than met the eye, and he had the distinct feeling that the marshal had just snookered him into a corner. But he couldn't very well refuse, and it would look fishy if he demanded they march now.
  3. (LGBT slang) Of drag queens: appearing feminine.
    • 2014, Todd Kachinski Kottmeier; Steve Hammond, “Mother’s Pretty Dress”, in DRAG411’s Official Drag Handbook, 4th edition, [s.l.]: BecHavn Publishing, →ISBN, page 46:
      One day I dressed up all out fishy to go to my mother's place. I knocked and started walking in past her. She was like 'Can I help you?' I said, 'Ma?' and she was like OMG! She actually thought I was one of her boyfriend's hoochie [mamas].
    • 2016, Magnus Hastings, “Introduction”, in Why Drag?, San Francisco, Calif.: Chronicle Books, →ISBN:
      The drag world of course includes traditional queens with heavy lip lines and huge lashes, their makeup almost mask-like in its precision. But it also encompasses everything from "fishy" queens, whose gorgeous bodies and ultra-feminine images confuse the observer, to bearded ladies, who play with gender stereotypes and have come to represent the new, confrontational face of drag, []


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