- The plural of fish is usually fish.
- When referring to more than one species of fish, especially in a scientific context, you can use fishes as the plural.
- The zodiac sign Pisces is also often referred to as fishes.
One of the most memorable quotes from the movie The Godfather is: “It’s a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.” In Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather, which is the basis for the movie, that line is a bit different: “The fish means that Luca Brasi is sleeping on the bottom of the ocean,” he said. “It’s an old Sicilian message.” But the movie version brings up an interesting question—isn’t fish the plural of fish? And, therefore, isn’t fishes incorrect?
When to use fish vs. fishes
The most common plural form of fish is indeed fish. However, under certain circumstances, you can use fishes as the plural form of fish. If you, for example, see two trout swimming together, you could say that you’re looking at fish. However, if the two trout were joined by a salmon, you could describe them as fish or fishes. Fish can refer to multiple fish, especially when they are all the same species of fish. Fishes, however, usually refers to multiple species of fish, especially in scientific contexts.
Other uses of fishes
The Godfather quote is one famous example of the word fishes. Another is the zodiac sign of Pisces, which is sometimes referred to as fishes. You can also say that someone fishes as a hobby, but that’s just a form of the verb “to fish.” Finally, there’s the saying “if fishes were wishes, we’d all cast nets,” which is commonly attributed to Frank Herbert, author of the Dune series.