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From Middle English wisshen, wischen, wüschen, from Old English wȳsċan (to wish), from Proto-Germanic *wunskijaną (to wish), from Proto-Indo-European *wun-, *wenh₁- (to wish, love). Cognate with Scots wis (to wish), Saterland Frisian wonskje (to wish), West Frisian winskje (to wish), Dutch wensen (to wish), German wünschen (to wish), Danish ønske (to wish), Icelandic æskja, óska (to wish), Latin Venus, veneror (venerate, honour, love).



wish (plural wishes)

  1. A desire, hope, or longing for something or for something to happen.
  2. An expression of such a desire, often connected with ideas of magic and supernatural power.
  3. The thing desired or longed for.
    My dearest wish is to see them happily married.
    • 1901, W. W. Jacobs, The Monkey's Paw
      "I suppose all old soldiers are the same," said Mrs White. "The idea of our listening to such nonsense! How could wishes be granted in these days? And if they could, how could two hundred pounds hurt you, father?" / "Might drop on his head from the sky," said the frivolous Herbert.
  4. (Sussex) A water meadow.

Usage notesEdit

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wish (third-person singular simple present wishes, present participle wishing, simple past and past participle wished)

  1. (transitive) To desire; to want.
    I'll come tomorrow, if you wish it.
    • (Can we date this quote?), Justin King, (Please provide the book title or journal name):
      Showing the population what we wish them to be is the best way for them to change.
    • (Can we date this quote?) William Shakespeare
      I would not wish / Any companion in the world but you.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Jonathan Swift, Phyllis
      Now John the butler must be sent
      To learn the road that Phyllis went:
      The groom was wished to saddle Crop;
      For John must neither light nor stop,
      But find her, wheresoe'er she fled,
      And bring her back alive or dead.
    • 1899, Hughes Mearns, Antigonish:
      Yesterday, upon the stair / I met a man who wasn’t there / He wasn’t there again today / I wish, I wish he’d go away …
  2. (intransitive, followed by for) To hope (for a particular outcome).
    • (Can we date this quote?) John Arbuthnot
      This is as good an argument as an antiquary could wish for.
    • 1901, W. W. Jacobs, The Monkey's Paw
      Mr. White took the paw from his pocket and eyed it dubiously. "I don't know what to wish for, and that's a fact," he said slowly. "It seems to me I've got all I want."
  3. (ditransitive) To bestow (a thought or gesture) towards (someone or something).
    We wish you a Merry Christmas.
    • (Can we date this quote?) William Shakespeare
      I would not wish them to a fairer death.
    • Bible, Psalms xl. 14
      Let them be driven backward, and put to shame, that wish me evil.
  4. (intransitive, followed by to and an infinitive) To request or desire to do an activity.
    • 2013 July-August, Henry Petroski, “Geothermal Energy”, in American Scientist, volume 101, number 4:
      Energy has seldom been found where we need it when we want it. Ancient nomads, wishing to ward off the evening chill and enjoy a meal around a campfire, had to collect wood and then spend time and effort coaxing the heat of friction out from between sticks to kindle a flame. With more settled people, animals were harnessed to capstans or caged in treadmills to turn grist into meal.
  5. (transitive) To recommend; to seek confidence or favour on behalf of.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Ben Jonson
      I was wished to your worship by a gentleman.

Usage notesEdit

Derived termsEdit



  • wish at OneLook Dictionary Search
  • wish in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911