Definition of prey in English:

prey

Line breaks: prey
Pronunciation: /preɪ
 
/

noun

[mass noun]
1An animal that is hunted and killed by another for food: the kestrel pounced on its prey
More example sentences
  • Rodents are prey for avian, reptilian, and mammalian predators.
  • The enzymes and toxins in scorpion venom are used by the arachnid to paralyse its prey and digest its food.
  • The calving lures many animals of prey, including lions and spotted hyena.
Synonyms
1.1A person who is easily deceived or harmed: he was easy prey for the two con men
More example sentences
  • That the enemy had not singled Winfred out to be easy prey was nothing short of pure fortune, especially with the battle still raging before his eyes.
  • A lot of youth are illiterate and unemployed and easy prey.
  • In this hot, desert-like mountain landscape I too would be easy prey.
Synonyms
victim, target, dupe, fool, innocent, gull
British informal muggins, charlie
North American informal patsy, sap, schlemiel, pigeon, mark
Australian/New Zealand informal dill
British informal , dated juggins
2 archaic Plunder or (in biblical use) a prize.

verb

[no object] (prey on/upon) Back to top  
1Hunt and kill for food: small birds that prey on insect pests
More example sentences
  • As much as I am appalled at what cats do to defenceless animals, I could never be cruel to them, even when they invade my garden to prey on the birds that drop in for food and water.
  • Lacewings are beneficial insects which prey on bugs that damage food crops.
  • Considered pests that prey on pets and livestock, the eagles have been hunted down by residents.
Synonyms
hunt, catch, seize;
eat, devour, feed on, live on, live off
1.1Take advantage of or harm: this is a mean type of theft by ruthless people preying on the elderly
More example sentences
  • Ruthless thieves are preying on the elderly outside charity and discount shops in Swindon.
  • Cruel doorstep cheats who prey on elderly people claim the number one spot on a damning ‘top five’ list of the worst swindlers, conmen and thieves.
  • Gardaí believe he was one of the leaders of a group of Traveller families who prey on elderly people living alone in remote, rural parts of the west of Ireland.
Synonyms
exploit, victimize, molest, pick on, intimidate, harass, hound, take advantage of;
trick, swindle, cheat, hoodwink, fleece;
attack, terrorize;
blackmail, bleed
informal con
1.2Cause constant distress to: the problem had begun to prey on my mind
More example sentences
  • As he grew up he refused to allow the horrific accident to prey on his mind and despite his disability he was able to do well at primary and elementary school.
  • When I'm between jobs, the issue of money tends to prey on my mind.
  • After the couple's return from the holiday isle, one thing continued to prey on their mind.
Synonyms
oppress, weigh on, weigh heavily on, lie heavy on, burden, be a burden on/to, hang over, gnaw at;
trouble, worry, beset, disturb, depress, distress, haunt, nag, torment, plague, obsess, take over, take control of

Origin

Middle English (also denoting plunder taken in war): the noun from Old French preie, from Latin praeda 'booty', the verb from Old French preier, based on Latin praedari 'seize as plunder', from praeda.

Phrases

fall prey to (also be or become prey to)

Be hunted and killed by (an animal): small rodents fell prey to domestic cats
More example sentences
  • In Northeast China, a Siberian tiger was recently found killed after it fell prey to a trap originally set by the locals for boars.
  • Many fall prey to poachers who kill them for meat and steal eggs from the corpses to sell as aphrodisiacs.
  • Eggs and hatchlings are the most vulnerable, falling prey to insects, crustaceans, mollusks, small mammals, birds, other reptiles, and various fishes.
Be vulnerable to or overcome by: he would often fall prey to melancholy the settlers become prey to nameless fears
More example sentences
  • Economic actors, sage and careful in other things, can in some circumstances fall prey to what Frank calls ‘luxury fever.’
  • Whether or not he formed political opinions on his own, or simply fell prey to the rhetoric of more intelligent people, remains to be seen, although even his loving wife accused him of being extremely naive at times.
  • I think that she fell prey to someone much more powerful and more cunning than she was and believed everything he said hook, line, and sinker, and she's a victim of crime, the way I see it.

Derivatives

preyer

noun
More example sentences
  • The great horned owl is the only reliable preyer upon skunks.
  • The man-dog is preyer; the rabbit is prey.

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