Definition of prick in English:

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Pronunciation: /prɪk/


[with object]
1Make a small hole in (something) with a sharp point; pierce slightly: prick the potatoes all over with a fork
More example sentences
  • Fee jammed her finger into a small hole, wincing as a needle pricked it, and a drop of blood fell on the DNA scanner.
  • Two weeks before, she had pricked her index finger on a thorny cactus.
  • When I crawl into my bag, a sharp object pricks my thigh and I grope after it: pinecone.
pierce, puncture, make/put a hole in, stab, perforate, rupture, riddle, penetrate, nick, spear, slit, incise, knife, bore, spike, skewer, spit, stick, punch, pin, needle, jag, jab
rare pink, transpierce
1.1 [no object] Feel a sensation as though a sharp point were sticking into one: she felt her scalp prick and her palms were damp
More example sentences
  • A strange, unfamiliar yet intimately familiar sensation pricked at her back then, and she reached back to touch… what on earth!
  • Often had little Emit heard the sounds at night - sharp sounds that pricked at his ears and his temples.
  • On Mother's Day here, there's a sharp piece of glass lodged under my heart, it pricks at my heart every so often today, to know my mom isn't here anymore.
1.2(Of tears) cause the sensation of imminent weeping in (a person’s eyes): tears of disappointment were pricking her eyelids
More example sentences
  • By the time Lydia had earned her breakfast, her delicate hands were red and stinging, and tears pricked her eyes as she bathed them.
  • She told her twin of their sister without any emotion, and her brother only nodded, silent tears pricking his eyes and disappearing without falling.
  • He felt tears pricking his eyes again, and brushed them away.
1.3Cause mental or emotional discomfort to: her conscience pricked her as she told the lie
More example sentences
  • High street stores peppered with products bearing the slogan ‘guarantees a better deal for Third World producers’ could be a familiar sight by the end of the year, if the campaign pricks the public's conscience.
  • Even so their marriage is more than a mutually acceptable business proposition: he genuinely loves her in his way and she him in hers, so he claims when his conscience pricks him.
  • The blind loyalty to a charismatic leader or group without heeding conscience when it pricks us on issues.
trouble, worry, distress, cause someone distress, perturb, disturb, oppress, harrow, harass, cause someone anguish, afflict, torment, plague, prey on, gnaw at, cut, touch, stab, pain, cause someone pain
1.4Provoke to action: the police were pricked into action by the horrifying sight
More example sentences
  • Dr. Nair wheedled, and often pricked, the group to bring out their concerns and knowledge about the needs and demands of adolescence.
  • Even with her interest pricked, it was more by luck than design that she eventually found herself at drama college.
  • He wasn't going to tell us, but now it seems he has been pricked into action.
goad, prod, incite, provoke, urge, spur, sting, whip, prompt, stimulate, encourage, inspire, motivate, push, propel, impel
2(Especially of a horse or dog) make (the ears) stand erect when on the alert: the dog’s ears were pricked
More example sentences
  • The horse pricked its ears and let loose a shrill whinny, trotting to Robyn.
  • The three horses tied out front pricked their ears, giving a start.
  • She looked back to her horse, whose ears were pricked forward in anticipation.
raise, erect, point


1An act of piercing something with a sharp point: the pin prick had produced a drop of blood
More example sentences
  • He muttered under his breath as she was lost from sight and turned as a sharp prick was felt on his neck.
  • I feel the prick of the pin against my skin and wonder where my friends and family would be in another time.
  • One of the kings announces that Sancho Panza will bring Altisidora back to life by experiencing her suffering in the form of twenty-five slaps in the face, twelve pinches and six pricks with a pin on his arms and back.
1.1A small hole or mark made by pricking something.
Example sentences
  • If there is evidence, what they're going to be looking for are some pitting of the metal, which are little tiny pinhole pricks.
  • Two pricks were found on Cleopatra's arm, and it was believed that she had allowed herself to be bitten by an asp (a kind of poisonous snake).
hole, puncture, perforation, pinhole;
nick, wound, cut, gash
1.2A sharp pain caused by being pierced with a sharp point: he felt a tiny prick in his arm
More example sentences
  • Tiny pricks of pain jabbed her in numerous places.
  • A sharp prick of pain registered in the back of her mind, causing her to jerk back in surprise, while at the same time, putting the tip of her slightly burned finger in her mouth.
  • He winced as the sharp prick of pain told him he was awake and then smiled.
jab, sting, pinprick, stab, nick, jag
1.3A sudden feeling of an unpleasant emotion: she felt a prick of resentment
More example sentences
  • Feeling a sudden prick of danger, someone having stopped to offer her speedier passage to Portans, she felt the impulse to go for her dagger, but resisted and turned around at a calm rate.
  • Indeed, had she and Colonel Leek been sharing confidential affections, he might have felt a prick of jealousy.
  • A prick of fear nibbled at her new - found joy and she opened the door slowly.
pang, pricking, twinge, stab, gnawing
2 vulgar slang A man’s penis.
2.1A stupid or contemptible man.
Example sentences
  • Not just stupid and dangerous, but a bigoted prick too - the photo he objected to was inter-racial.
  • You changed me from a prick like Alex into someone who cares and besides you're so loving and caring.
  • She would almost feel sorry for him and give in, if it wasn't for the fact that he was an incompetent prick.
3 archaic A goad for oxen.
Example sentences
  • The prick was usually a wooden shaft with a pointed spike (prick) at one end.
  • As a result, the prick would be driven deeper into the flesh of the rebellious animal.



kick against the pricks

Hurt oneself by persisting in useless resistance or protest.
With biblical allusion to Acts 9:5
Example sentences
  • And it's equally strange how much time you can spend kicking against the pricks, waiting and hoping for things to change - only to find that what you thought you wanted changed was really your safety net.
  • They are still kicking against the pricks for all they are worth but fortunately they have remembered to write some tunes this time around.
  • His conscience was reached: he faced up to the fact that he had been kicking against the pricks.

one's ears prick up

One becomes suddenly attentive: my ears pricked up when I overheard two guys discussing the actress

prick up one's ears

(Especially of a horse or dog) make the ears stand erect when on the alert.
Example sentences
  • At hearing their names the horses pricked up their ears and looked at Umanac who held out a cube of sugar each in his palms.
  • Rilleta could feel her horse prick up her ears and snort as she scented the water, and then Rilleta was kicking her on, shouting at the top of her lungs.
  • ‘At least you will like the stables, Danin,’ and her mount pricked up his ears at hearing his name.
listen carefully, pay attention, become attentive, begin to take notice, attend, concentrate on hearing, lend an ear, pin one's ears back
informal be all ears
literary hark
3.1(Of a person) become suddenly attentive: he pricked up his ears when he heard them talking about him
More example sentences
  • Excellent speeches are magnetic, but nobody wants to prick up their ears for long to listen to nothing but nonsense.
  • Jordan spoke quietly, but everyone pricked up their ears to listen.
  • Voices drifted out from the trailer and I pricked up my ears in spite of myself.

a spare prick at a wedding

British vulgar slang A person who is out of place or has no role in a particular situation.

Phrasal verbs

prick something out

1Draw a pattern by making small holes in a surface: he pricked out a rough design with his dagger
More example sentences
  • A pattern is pricked out by pins on the pillow to guide the worker.
  • The pattern has been pricked out with a point before the color was laid on.
1.1Decorate a surface by pricking out a pattern: belts were often pricked out in fancy patterns
More example sentences
  • There can be no doubt that the buckle-end of a belt could be a formidable weapon, but in fact the belts were often pricked out in fancy patterns or embellished with metal studs in much the same way that modern motor-bike boys adorn their jackets with stud designs.
2Plant seedlings in small holes made in the earth: he was in the garden pricking out marigolds
More example sentences
  • Alternatively, collect ripe seed and sow in trays in a cold frame pricking them out when big enough.
  • They will need exactly the same care as those done at home so limit how many are bought, bearing in mind they will need warmth and good light when they have been pricked out.
  • The big spring jobs, sowing, pricking out and planting out bedding and vegetables, pruning early flowering shrubs and getting the lawn into shape, are all finished.



Pronunciation: /ˈprɪkə/
Example sentences
  • Applying these labyrinthine designs were the kol'shchiki or ‘zone prickers.’
  • Watch the bushes, the opening is hidden by prickers.
  • Hotsuma walked on further, walking under lower branches and avoiding prickers.


Old English pricca (noun), prician (verb), probably of West Germanic origin and related to Low German and Dutch prik (noun), prikken (verb).

Words that rhyme with prick

artic, brick, chick, click, crick, flick, hand-pick, hic, hick, kick, lick, mick, miskick, nick, pic, pick, quick, rick, shtick, sic, sick, slick, snick, stick, thick, tic, tick, trick, Vic, wick

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: prick

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