Definition of perish in English:



[no object]
  • 1literary Die, especially in a violent or sudden way.

    ‘a great part of his army perished of hunger and disease’
    • ‘Forty-nine people were killed in the city and a further 16 perished at sea.’
    • ‘By the end of the 1840s over one million Irish had perished from hunger and associated disease and another two million had emigrated to escape the misery.’
    • ‘Malnourished children do not typically perish from hunger but when children are weak, common childhood ailments become killers.’
    • ‘While some manage the perilous crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar separating Spain from Morocco, many others perish trying.’
    • ‘But, in some cases, some of the people perished as a result of the flooding.’
    • ‘A great many fishermen perished at sea, especially during the brutal winter season.’
    • ‘An estimated 3.3 million people perished in the war, mainly through war-induced disease and famine.’
    • ‘We found her boat, in pieces on the shore, and I thought she had perished in a violent storm crossing the ocean.’
    • ‘Much of the army perished at the river, and most of the rest were captured.’
    • ‘Her pet cat and dog also perished in the flames.’
    • ‘Approximately 200,000 Irishmen served in World War 1 and over 60,000 perished in the conflict.’
    • ‘The thousands who perished there certainly deserve the honour and the remembrance.’
    • ‘More than 50 million soldiers and civilians perished in the Second World War.’
    • ‘We believe at this time that the boy has probably perished in the crash.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, all but eight perished in World War II.’
    • ‘If they had left him he could have perished in the fire.’
    • ‘The house was razed and both daughters, aged 4 and 6, perished in the blaze.’
    • ‘Sixty-eight journalists were killed during World War II, while 38 perished in the Korean War.’
    • ‘He and Lady Charlotte both tragically perished in a great fire at the temple today.’
    • ‘They survived the unknown hardships of war, only to perish while travelling to a job most Irish people would now turn their noses up at.’
    die, lose one's life, be killed, fall, expire, meet one's death, be lost, lay down one's life, breathe one's last, draw one's last breath, pass away, go the way of all flesh, give up the ghost, go to glory, meet one's maker, go to one's last resting place, cross the great divide
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Suffer complete ruin or destruction.
      ‘must these noble hopes perish so soon?’
      • ‘Much of the work from the silent era has perished or been lost to future generations.’
      • ‘Will it successfully resist or perish due to state repression?’
      • ‘How many beautiful friendships may perish prematurely because of people losing contact this way, as a result of some virus or other computer misfortune?’
      • ‘He died in a shabby Roman hotel the year after that regime had perished.’
      • ‘Her love for him, however, had slowly perished throughout the years of their marriage.’
      • ‘Empires and ideologies have triumphed, perished and fallen into oblivion through the centuries.’
      • ‘The Republic will surely perish without a heroic effort from all of us.’
      • ‘They are afraid that their party will perish as they risk losing the support of both the ‘deep blue’ and pro-localization factions.’
      • ‘They hoped the ruling party could help save the paper from perishing.’
      come to an end, die, die away, be destroyed, cease to exist, disappear, vanish, fade, dissolve, evaporate, melt away, pass into oblivion, wither
      View synonyms
  • 2(of rubber, food, etc.) lose its normal qualities; rot or decay.

    ‘an abandoned tyre whose rubber had perished’
    • ‘Since you're looking for foods that don't perish too fast and can be eaten without silverware, I suggest plant-based foods for lunches.’
    • ‘Except the dry leaves, they leave all vegetation to grow and perish in the field itself to enrich the soil.’
    • ‘Leaks due to cracked or perished rubber make accurate measurement of blood pressure difficult because the fall in mercury cannot be controlled.’
    • ‘Oh, how foolish we are to labor for the bread that perishes.’
    • ‘The tree's bright green foliage contrasted with the swing, whose wood had long perished, cut off from its source of life, and was now numb to the world.’
    • ‘Some argue that organic fruit and vegetables perish quickly, but there's no need to waste food that has reached the end of its shelf life.’
    • ‘It's worth jacking the car up and having a look at the brake lines (which carry fluid to the brakes), in particular the flexible rubber hoses which can crack and perish.’
    go bad, go off, spoil, rot, go mouldy, moulder, putrefy, decay, decompose
    View synonyms
  • 3be perishedBritish informal Be suffering from extreme cold.

    ‘I was perished with cold before the end of the day’
    • ‘He was not imaginative enough to ask himself whether the man might not be perishing with cold and hunger.’


  • perish the thought

    • informal Used, often ironically, to show that one finds a suggestion or idea completely ridiculous or unwelcome.

      ‘he wasn't out to get drunk—perish the thought!’
      • ‘Or even, perish the thought, an expenditure that need not have its results measured in dollars and cents, but as an altruistic good.’
      • ‘Was I - after only a few days impersonating a political reporter - becoming, perish the thought, a tad cynical?’
      • ‘But perish the thought that you should actually cut your pay.’
      • ‘Is there an automatic mechanism to correct the situation or, perish the thought, is the situation more pathological?’
      • ‘Here, at last, we have one who seems, perish the thought, to be able to make up his own mind.’
      • ‘It's just possible - perish the thought - that not everything in the world can be analysed sociologically.’
      • ‘We could, perish the thought, have something of equal proportions.’
      • ‘We wouldn't take a brown envelope - perish the thought!’
      • ‘So perhaps - perish the thought - they're not actually coming after all?’
      • ‘I wasn't unwell and there's no scandal, perish the thought.’


Middle English: from Old French periss-, lengthened stem of perir, from Latin perire ‘pass away’, from per- ‘through, completely’ + ire ‘go’.