FISH (O. Eng. fisc, a word common to Teutonic languages, cf. Dutch visch, Ger. Fisch, Goth. fisks, cognate with the Lat. piscis), the common name of that class of vertebrate animals which lives exclusively in water, breathes through gills, and whose limbs take the form of fins (see Ichthyology). The article Fisheries deals with the subject from the economic and commercial point of view, and Angling with the catching of fish as a sport. The constellation and sign of the zodiac known as “the fishes” is treated under Pisces.
The fish was an early symbol of Christ in primitive and medieval Christian art. The origin is to be found in the initial letters of the names and titles of Jesus in Greek, viz. Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Ὑιός, Σώτηρ, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour, which together spell the Greek word for “fish,” ἰχθύς. The fish is also said to be represented in the oval-shaped figure, pointed at both ends, and formed by the intersection of two circles. This figure, also known as the vesica piscis, is common in ecclesiastical seals and as a glory or aureole in paintings of sculpture, surrounding figures of the Trinity, saints, &c. The figure is, however, sometimes referred to the almond, as typifying virginity; the French name for the symbol is Amande mystique.
The word “fish” is used in many technical senses. Thus it is used of the purchase used in raising the flukes of an anchor to the bill-board; of a piece of wood or metal used to strengthen a sprung mast or yard; and of a plate of metal used, as in railway construction, for the strengthening of the meeting-place of two rails. This word is of doubtful origin, but it is probably an adaptation of the Fr. fiche, that which “fixes,” a peg. This word also appears in the English form “fish,” in the metal, pearl or bone counters, sometimes made in the form of fish, used for scoring points, &c., in many games.