noun, plural (especially collectively) herring (especially referring to two or more kinds or species) herrings.
an important food fish, Clupea harengus harengus, found in enormous shoals in the North Atlantic.
a similar fish, Clupea harengus pallasii, of the North Pacific.
any fish of the family Clupeidae, including herrings, shads, and sardines.
any of various fishes resembling the herring but of unrelated families.

before 900; Middle English hering, Old English hǣring; cognate with German Häring

herringlike, adjective
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
herring (ˈhɛrɪŋ)
n , pl -rings, -ring
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 hǣring; related to Old High German hāring, Old Frisian hēring, Dutch haring]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. hering (Anglian), hæring (W. Saxon), from W.Gmc. *kheringgaz (cf. O.Fris. hereng, M.Du. herinc, Ger. Hering), of unknown origin, perhaps related to O.E. har "gray, hoar," from the color, or to O.H.G. heri "host, multitude" from its large schools. Herring-bone is first recorded 1659 as a type
of stitch; 1905 as a type of cirrocumulus cloud. The Battle of the Herrings (Fr. baraille 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."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


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

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
In my view, juxtaposing these two choices is a red herring.
The who-wrote-what question is, however, a red herring.
Sure, there are many other competing priorities as well, but this one is the
  great red herring.
Another red herring, maybe not even a herring, maybe a red minnow.
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