Definition of perish in US English:



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  • 1Suffer death, typically in a violent, sudden, or untimely way.

    ‘a great part of his army perished of hunger and disease’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Her pet cat and dog also perished in the flames.’
    • ‘We found her boat, in pieces on the shore, and I thought she had perished in a violent storm crossing the ocean.’
    • ‘The thousands who perished there certainly deserve the honour and the remembrance.’
    • ‘We believe at this time that the boy has probably perished in the crash.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, all but eight perished in World War II.’
    • ‘Much of the army perished at the river, and most of the rest were captured.’
    • ‘The house was razed and both daughters, aged 4 and 6, perished in the blaze.’
    • ‘But, in some cases, some of the people perished as a result of the flooding.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A great many fishermen perished at sea, especially during the brutal winter season.’
    • ‘Sixty-eight journalists were killed during World War II, while 38 perished in the Korean War.’
    • ‘More than 50 million soldiers and civilians perished in the Second World War.’
    • ‘Approximately 200,000 Irishmen served in World War 1 and over 60,000 perished in the conflict.’
    • ‘Malnourished children do not typically perish from hunger but when children are weak, common childhood ailments become killers.’
    • ‘Forty-nine people were killed in the city and a further 16 perished at sea.’
    • ‘An estimated 3.3 million people perished in the war, mainly through war-induced disease and famine.’
    • ‘If they had left him he could have perished in the fire.’
    • ‘While some manage the perilous crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar separating Spain from Morocco, many others perish trying.’
    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
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    1. 1.1 Suffer complete ruin or destruction.
      ‘the old regime had to perish’
      • ‘How many beautiful friendships may perish prematurely because of people losing contact this way, as a result of some virus or other computer misfortune?’
      • ‘Will it successfully resist or perish due to state repression?’
      • ‘Her love for him, however, had slowly perished throughout the years of their marriage.’
      • ‘The Republic will surely perish without a heroic effort from all of us.’
      • ‘They hoped the ruling party could help save the paper from perishing.’
      • ‘They are afraid that their party will perish as they risk losing the support of both the ‘deep blue’ and pro-localization factions.’
      • ‘Empires and ideologies have triumphed, perished and fallen into oblivion through the centuries.’
      • ‘He died in a shabby Roman hotel the year after that regime had perished.’
      • ‘Much of the work from the silent era has perished or been lost to future generations.’
      come to an end, die, die away, be destroyed, cease to exist, disappear, vanish, fade, dissolve, evaporate, melt away, pass into oblivion, wither
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    2. 1.2 (of rubber, a foodstuff, or other organic substance) lose its normal qualities; rot or decay.
      ‘most domestic building was in wood and has 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Leaks due to cracked or perished rubber make accurate measurement of blood pressure difficult because the fall in mercury cannot be controlled.’
      go bad, go off, spoil, rot, go mouldy, moulder, putrefy, decay, decompose
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  • 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!’
      • ‘Was I - after only a few days impersonating a political reporter - becoming, perish the thought, a tad cynical?’
      • ‘We wouldn't take a brown envelope - perish the thought!’
      • ‘Is there an automatic mechanism to correct the situation or, perish the thought, is the situation more pathological?’
      • ‘But perish the thought that you should actually cut your pay.’
      • ‘I wasn't unwell and there's no scandal, perish the thought.’
      • ‘It's just possible - perish the thought - that not everything in the world can be analysed sociologically.’
      • ‘Here, at last, we have one who seems, perish the thought, to be able to make up his own mind.’
      • ‘We could, perish the thought, have something of equal proportions.’
      • ‘Or even, perish the thought, an expenditure that need not have its results measured in dollars and cents, but as an altruistic good.’
      • ‘So perhaps - perish the thought - they're not actually coming after all?’


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