Main definitions of thorn in English

: thorn1Thorn2



  • 1A stiff, sharp-pointed woody projection on the stem or other part of a plant.

    • ‘It is very difficult to miss this flower with its very vibrant orange leaves and dangerous thorns.’
    • ‘Having bare feet also made it easier to grip when following a ridge and, since there was not the faintest trace of vegetation anywhere, there was no danger from thorns.’
    • ‘The untrained eye cannot always distinguish between a blackberry and a raspberry, since the shapes and sizes of the fruit, leaves, and thorns vary, and there are both red blackberries and black raspberries.’
    • ‘I just keep staring at the rose, the petals, the long yellow stamens, stem, the fat red thorns, wanting to say so much.’
    • ‘I could easily compare her to a rose: a beautiful flower with piercing thorns.’
    • ‘But I'm so inherently Texan I love it all - the stickers, the spikes, the thorns, the burrs, the nettles, and the rocks.’
    • ‘Her finger caught on one of the thorns hidden beneath a leaf.’
    • ‘The door was engraved with carvings of dead and live roses with long stems and sharp thorns.’
    • ‘The Romans considered holly to be lucky, and it was later accepted as a symbol by the church - its sharp leaves likened to the thorns worn by Jesus and its berries to the drops of Christ's blood.’
    • ‘Plants also possess a great diversity of physical resistance traits, such as spines and thorns.’
    • ‘Roses ramble over walls, branches stiff with thorns and laden with huge blossoms.’
    • ‘The thorns on the rose stem pressed into his skin but he ignored the pain.’
    • ‘Sweating on an assembly line, she strips thorns from flowers bound for countries where people can afford such luxuries.’
    • ‘Certain plants have developed thorns to prevent themselves from being devoured and they work equally well as deterrents for humans too.’
    • ‘Here in south Texas, where the mesquite brush and most other native plants have thorns and where not a few critters have a mean bite, it helps to be tough.’
    • ‘Due to the proposed similarity in function among thorns, spines, and prickles, we will hereafter generically refer to all plants bearing them as armed.’
    • ‘Workers spray rose bushes, harvest stems, strip them of thorns and pluck the blemished petals.’
    • ‘The rural imagery is varied: the rising sap, meadows, individual plants, birds, a bedewed rose among its thorns, storm, flood, and fair weather.’
    • ‘Experts have known for some time that cheetahs are particularly prone to eye injuries from thorns and spikes.’
    • ‘Nearly all of the plant life protects itself with thorns, barbs and needles.’
    prickle, spike, barb, spine, bristle
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A source of discomfort, annoyance, or difficulty; an irritation or obstacle.
      ‘the issue has become a thorn in renewing the peace talks’
      • ‘However, that thorn has yet to trouble the organisers, who are revitalising and expanding the event.’
      • ‘Jake is a big thorn in this school.’
      • ‘A friend and I were sitting around commiserating about the things that get to us: unloading small indignities, comparing thorns.’
      • ‘His visits to the shrine have been a thorn that is increasingly irritating relations between the two countries.’
      • ‘Why do our love lives have to be a winding road full of obstacles and thorns?’
  • 2A thorny bush, shrub, or tree, especially a hawthorn.

    • ‘Pretty soon I sat up with a jerk as something was thrashing like mad in the thorn bush above my head.’
    • ‘In the autumn we intend to plant fruiting species of trees, including gelda rose, hawthorn, hazel, thorn and snowberry.’
    • ‘When he reached Glastonbury he planted his staff, which then took root and grew into a thorn tree.’
    • ‘I wish to draw everybody's attention to the great value of all established indigenous trees and of camel thorn trees in particular.’
    • ‘She could see a forest surrounding the town, dense and thick, full of dark, tangled trees and thorns that looked scary and uninviting.’
    • ‘The undergrowth of thorns and shrubs was bad enough, but in addition the whole place was chock-full of a sort of reed with long leaves about an inch or so broad.’
    • ‘Huge clusters of thorn bushes, fungus, tree roots and a carpet of dead leaves and pine needles made walking a chore.’
    • ‘To this day, a large and twisted thorn tree - the ‘Friar's Thorn’ - grows on the mound where the ceremonies were carried out and it is near here that the ‘Friar's Stone’ is located.’
    • ‘With the sun at its highest and the birds falling silent, I had a short siesta under a thorn tree.’
    • ‘The camels seem to enjoy bunches of dry-looking thorn bush.’
    • ‘Point out any potential hazards to the child, such as thorn bushes or poison ivy.’
    • ‘Slowly we progress across the crimson lakes of sand, silver pools of sand, enormous hillocks of sand, skirting giant rocks and stubbornly vibrant patches of thorn bush.’
    • ‘I sit beside my flowering thorn and drink a little wine.’
    • ‘Instead of a well-equipped school their children are taught beneath the shade of a thorn tree.’
    • ‘Along the banks grew knob thorns, sausage trees, vegetable ivory, ilala palms, mangoes, wild figs, tamarinds and mahogany, as well as the ubiquitous acacia.’
    • ‘The lions chased him, and savaged his leg before he fell into a thorn bush too dense for them to reach him.’
    • ‘‘They threw me over the back of a camel and told me they would kill me if I cried,’ he said, sitting quietly under a thorn tree on the outskirts of Turalei.’
  • 3An Old English and Icelandic runic letter, þ or Þ, representing the dental fricatives /ð/ and /θ/. It was eventually superseded by the digraph th.

    Compare with eth
    • ‘Similarly, thorn may represent either a voiceless or a voiced sound: compare the current use of the digraph th in three and these.’
  • 4A yellowish-brown woodland moth which rests with the wings raised over the back, with caterpillars that mimic twigs in appearance.

    Ennomos and other genera, family Geometridae


  • there is no rose without a thorn

    • proverb Every apparently desirable situation has its share of trouble or difficulty.

      • ‘There is no rose without a thorn, but people getting all hot and bothered is not going to do Sligo any good.’
      • ‘But there is no rose without a thorn and they stand for life's difficulties and tragedies.’
      • ‘Among other things, Stenwick prides itself upon the comeliness of its damsels, but, just as there is no rose without a thorn, so there is no parish whose gallery of feminine pulchritude is utterly flawless.’
  • a thorn in someone's side (or flesh)

    • A source of continual annoyance or trouble.

      ‘the pastor has long been a thorn in the side of the regime’
      • ‘Neighbours consider him a kind person who is ready to help others, while criminals see him as a thorn in their side.’
      • ‘I was a thorn in their side because I wouldn't go along with what they wanted to do.’
      • ‘His uncompromising attitude continually made him a thorn in the Establishment 's side.’
      • ‘Has there been a government in the last thirty years which hasn't regarded the our journalists as a thorn in its side?’
      • ‘A feisty nuisance of a forward, he was a thorn in their side throughout.’
      • ‘I'm going to be a thorn in their side until they deliver the school places, until they deliver the public transport, until they deliver the parks and the playgrounds.’
      • ‘We will continue to be a thorn in his side, keeping a close eye on him and interfering with his criminal activities.’
      • ‘A committed republican, he continued to be a thorn in Cromwell 's side, being elected to the protector's parliaments of 1654 and 1656, but prevented from taking his seat.’
      • ‘We will continue to fight, to be there as a thorn in their side.’
      • ‘He's still there of course, and will no doubt continue to be a thorn in our side, but the main danger now seems to be past.’
      annoyance, irritant, irritation, source of irritation, source of vexation, source of annoyance, pinprick, pest, bother, trial, torment, plague, inconvenience, nuisance, menace
      View synonyms


Old English, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch doorn and German Dorn.




Main definitions of thorn in English

: thorn1Thorn2


proper noun