Fish or Fishes?
Is the plural of fish fish or fishes—it depends.
Fish is the most common plural form of the word fish, as in Squiggly brought home fish for the aquarium, but there are some instances in which people use fishes instead:
- Scientists who study fish (ichthyologists), for example, often refer to different species as fishes. A quick Google Books search returns many scientific tomes talking about the different kinds of fishes that researchers have found in various regions, such as thirty kinds of fishes off the coast of California and 149 kinds of fishes in Minnesota.
- In the Bible, Jesus feeds thousands of people with loaves and fishes.
- The movie The Godfather popularized the saying that someone sleeps with the fishes to indicate that he or she has been killed by the mob and dumped in the water.
- A few different sayings begin with If wishes were fishes. The most common one I’ve seen is If wishes were fishes, we’d all cast nets into the sea.
The Quick and Dirty Tip is that the plural of fish is fish, unless you’re writing about different species of fish, are a mobster, are quoting the Bible, or are trying to make a rhyme.
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