Definition of needle in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈniːd(ə)l/


1A very fine slender piece of polished metal with a point at one end and a hole or eye for thread at the other, used in sewing: a darning needle
More example sentences
  • He watched her thread her needle again, her slender, graceful fingers never erring despite the inadequate light.
  • After the nurse stitched the wound with a sewing needle and cotton thread, the mother and baby were transferred and treated by Dr Valle and his colleagues at the nearest hospital.
  • She found 3 different colored spools of cloth, a few basic colors of thread, a sewing needle, a cheap pair of shoes, and a comb.
1.1A similar, larger instrument used in crafts such as crochet, knitting, and lacemaking.
Example sentences
  • Last night I had to restart my hat because when I joined the knitting on the circular needles, I accidentally left a twist in it, and it was unfixable.
  • I seem to have finally mastered knitting on two circular needles!
  • At the same time, they're unlikely to be ready for full-blown knitting on needles.
2The pointed hollow end of a hypodermic syringe.
Example sentences
  • He paid a $200 fine for possession of hypodermic syringes, needles, and other paraphernalia.
  • To give the epidural anaesthetic, the anaesthetist passes a hollow needle into a small space just below the spinal cord.
  • Examples include the use of hypodermic needles designed to protect healthcare workers against exposure to HIV from needle sticks.
2.1A very fine metal spike used in acupuncture.
Example sentences
  • In acupuncture treatment, fine needles are inserted into the skin at particular locations to alleviate the patient's symptoms.
  • Acupuncturists can use as many as nine types of Acupuncture needles, though only six are commonly used today.
  • Both the acupuncture needles were therefore located near the proximal and distal ends of the implanted silicone tubes, respectively.
3A thin pointer on a dial, compass, or other instrument: the meter needle barely moved
More example sentences
  • If you place a compass there, the needle won't move.
  • What you will notice is that the compass needle swings.
  • The compass needle aligns itself with this field (perpendicular to the wire).
4Something likened to a needle, in particular:
Example sentences
  • Robin: clean the fluff off the needle.
4.1A stylus used to play records: she wound the gramophone and lowered the needle on to the record
More example sentences
  • When the friend forgot to bring him his needles for the record player Chad attempted to re-enter the club.
  • The needle broke on my record player eighteen months ago and I haven't been able to get a new one yet.
  • They are something I, as a member of Parliament, have been on about, to the point of being like a needle in a cracked record, for many, many years.
4.2An etching tool.
Example sentences
  • The hard zinc plate, the surgicality of the etching needle and processes involving machines resist any illusion of a veridical access to the world or one's own emotions.
  • Then the image is incised into the wax or resin layer with an etching needle.
  • In her last years she continued with her art, though she gave up etching due to her loss of the visual acuity required by the etching needle.
4.3A steel pin exploding the cartridge of a breech-loading gun.
Example sentences
  • Sailors who have only used Jasons pistols with the more common stainless steel needles are not at risk from this type of exposure.
5The sharp, stiff, slender leaf of a fir or pine tree.
Example sentences
  • The conifers are a particularly interesting group to study as unlike cereals their leaves or needles are retained for several years.
  • Usually 1 to 2 cm thick, it is composed of needles, leaves, twigs, and is dark brown in colour.
  • A large volume of soil can thus be sampled by analyzing appropriate parts of a tree, such as twigs, needles, leaves, or bark.
6A pointed rock or peak: just left of the needle is a steep wall for those who like bold climbing
6.1 (the Needles) A group of rocks in the sea off the western tip of the Isle of Wight in southern England.
6.2An obelisk: Cleopatra’s Needle
7 [mass noun] British informal Hostility or antagonism provoked by rivalry: there is already a little bit of needle between the sides
More example sentences
  • Wearsiders and Teessiders can enjoy the North East needle match, Middlesbrough v Sunderland, at the Skeldergate pub on Monday night.
  • This needle match between France and Britain dates back at least to the hundred years war.
  • Shipley's first and second teams are in the West Yorkshire Super League - and when they clash they are always needle matches.
8A beam used as a temporary support during underpinning.


[with object]
1Prick or pierce with or as if with a needle: dust needled his eyes
More example sentences
  • There have been calls for the medical profession to be better informed about how to treat farmers who've accidentally needled themselves with the OJD vaccine.
  • On our walk, multi-hued birds fluttered overhead in the green forest and deodar trees tall as totems from some pantheon of forest gods vied with the pines to needle the sky.
  • We will have the similar effect by needling the same acupoint no matter on the same or a different subject.
2 informal Provoke or annoy (someone) by continual criticism or questioning: I just said that to Charlie to needle him
More example sentences
  • But I would rather be needled by a performer than bored.
  • So, for all those that think we are being racist by needling the French over this, I'd like to assure you of two things.
  • Throughout our conversation, as one veteran good-naturedly needles the other, all the teen-angst details come out.
goad, provoke, bait, taunt, pester, harass, prick, prod, sting;
British informal wind up, get at, nark, get across
North American informal ride
New Zealand informal rark
vulgar slang piss off
rare exacerbate, hump, rasp



the eye of a needle

A tiny aperture through which it would seem impossible to pass (especially with reference to Matt. 19:24).
Example sentences
  • The Christian bible quotes Jesus as saying it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter heaven; or then there's the Irish saying: ‘There are no pockets in a shroud’.
  • A supersized prole will pass through the eye of a needle before anyone not in the Party will be admitted to heaven.
  • I mean, if a camel can pass through the eye of a needle, anything's possible, right?

give someone the needle

informal Provoke or annoy someone.
Example sentences
  • They'll get you after another one and give you the needle without a second thought about it.
  • No need to give me the needle just because someone's given it to you.

a needle in a haystack

Something that is almost impossible to find because it is hidden among so many other things: locating these fish can be like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack
More example sentences
  • However, that would be nearly as impossible as finding a needle in a haystack.
  • Unfortunately, we are looking for a needle in a haystack and you cannot hope to be able to prevent any such outrage as this.
  • He walked bulls through china shops, contrived an actual change of horses in mid-stream during an election campaign and, to publicise a piece of real estate, spent 10 days searching for a needle in a haystack.


Old English nǣdl, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch naald and German Nadel, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin nere 'to spin' and Greek nēma 'thread'.

  • Old English nǣdl, of Germanic origin, is related to Dutch naald, and German Nadel, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin nere ‘to spin’ and Greek nēma ‘thread’. The colloquial use of the verb in the sense ‘irritate, annoy’ dates from the late 19th century.

Words that rhyme with needle

beadle, bipedal, credal, wheedle

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: nee¦dle

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.