Definition of alewife in US English:



  • 1A northwestern Atlantic fish of the herring family that swims up rivers to spawn and is found also in the Great Lakes.

    Alosa pseudoharengus, family Clupeidae

    • ‘Few land-locked alewives live longer than 5 years.’
    • ‘Harbor seals were found to congregate in the Saint John Harbour during the runs of alewife but not Atlantic salmon.’
    • ‘Some of the species that live in the ocean but enter freshwater to spawn are sea lamprey, Atlantic sturgeon, alewife, Atlantic salmon, arctic char, and American eel.’
    • ‘Larger salmon eat a variety of fishes such as herring and alewives, smelts, capelin, small mackerel, sand lace, and small cod.’
    • ‘Our goal was to determine if seal numbers increase during the alewife and Atlantic salmon runs.’
    1. 1.1
      another term for menhaden


Mid 17th century: possibly from earlier alewife ‘woman who keeps an ale house’, with reference to the fish's large belly.