noun, plural (especially collectively) her·ring, (especially referring to two or more kinds or species) her·rings.

  1. an important food fish, Clupea harengus harengus, found in enormous shoals in the North Atlantic.
  2. a similar fish, Clupea harengus pallasii, of the North Pacific.
  3. any fish of the family Clupeidae, including herrings, shads, and sardines.
  4. any of various fishes resembling the herring but of unrelated families.

noun plural -rings or -ring

  1. any marine soft-finned teleost fish of the family Clupeidae, esp Clupea harengus, an important food fish of northern seas, having an elongated body covered, except in the head region, with large fragile silvery scales

Old English hering (Anglian), hæring (West Saxon), from West Germanic *heringgaz (cf. Old Frisian hereng, Middle Dutch herinc, German Hering), of unknown origin, perhaps related to or influenced in form by Old English har “gray, hoar,” from the color, or to Old High German heri “host, multitude” from its large schools.

French hareng, Italian aringa are from Germanic. The Battle of the Herrings (French bataille des harengs) is the popular name for the battle at Rouvrai, Feb. 12, 1492, fought in defense of a convoy of provisions, mostly herrings and other “lenten stuffe.”

see dead as a doornail (herring); red herring.

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