- 1(Of a bird) tidy and clean its feathers with its beak: reed buntings preened at the pool’s edge [with object]: the pigeon preened her feathersMore example sentences
- This louse is the only common parasite on satin bowerbirds, and it is found mainly around the head and eyes where birds cannot easily preen.
- With hundreds of new feathers regenerating, the bird must preen constantly.
- When preening, birds nibble and stroke their feathers, returning them to correct position.
- 1.1 (also preen oneself) (Of a person) devote effort to making oneself look attractive and then admire one’s appearance: adolescents preening in their bedroom mirrorsMore example sentences
admire oneself, primp oneself, primp, prink oneself; pretty oneself, prettify oneself, smarten oneself, beautify oneself, make oneself pretty/smart/beautiful, groom oneself, tidy oneself, spruce oneself up• informal titivate oneself, doll oneself upBritish • informal tart oneself upNorth American • informal gussy oneself up• archaic plume oneself, trig oneself
- They start cramming the barricades, the ladies start primping and preening themselves in their compact mirrors.
- We're always expected to be preening ourselves, so it was a pretty nice opportunity not to have to think about that stuff for a while.
- Television stars had been preening themselves for the red carpet at Claridges, where some of the hottest designers, make-up artists, jewellers and hair stylists had taken up residence.
- 1.2 (preen oneself) Congratulate or pride oneself: he’s busy preening himself on acquiring such a pretty girlfriendMore example sentences
- For almost 10 years, I have preened myself on this single modest benefaction.
- ‘As you wish, Captain,’ Tyrr replied simply, mentally preening himself for the accomplishment.
- The police last week in Sunderland preened themselves on how good intelligence had enabled them to spot and control the troublemakers.
late Middle English: apparently a variant of obsolete prune (based on Latin ungere 'anoint'), in the same sense, associated with Scots and northern English dialect preen 'pierce, pin' (because of the ‘pricking’ action of the bird's beak).