Definition of preen in English:



[no object]
  • 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 feathers’
    • ‘With hundreds of new feathers regenerating, the bird must preen constantly.’
    • ‘Anatids spend copious amounts of time in the water and spend a great deal of time on preening and feather maintenance.’
    • ‘They then spend several hours preening and drying their feathers.’
    • ‘If these substances come into contact with bird feathers they are impossible for the bird to preen or wash out.’
    • ‘The tall white birds preen, squawk, and soar majestically, like snowy B - 52s.’
    • ‘The penguins ingest the oil as they preen their feathers, which changes the birds' immune systems, making them more vulnerable to disease.’
    • ‘Watch any bird for a while, and you will see that it spends a lot of time preening its feathers and bathing in water or dust.’
    • ‘When preening, birds nibble and stroke their feathers, returning them to correct position.’
    • ‘The edge of the ice had started to melt, creating a narrow stream where some of the birds were happily preening, flapping showers of droplets into the air.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Birds use their beaks to keep their feathers in order; you know this action as preening.’
    clean, tidy, groom, smooth, arrange
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    1. 1.1also preen oneself (of a person) devote effort to making oneself look attractive and then admire one's appearance.
      ‘adolescents preening in their bedroom mirrors’
      • ‘In Prof. Patterson's class, which is must have a women to men ration of 10: 1, all of the gum smacking coeds are preening themselves in the mirror.’
      • ‘Not that I was the only one: I noticed how all the women preened themselves when he walked into the room, flirting with him and laughing outrageously at his jokes.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘That's why the contestants spend so much time preening themselves in front of a mirror.’
      • ‘Unable to summon up the courage to venture inside and make myself a cup of tea, I returned to the lounge where Amy was still preening herself.’
      • ‘Humans are like animals: when they stop preening themselves, you've got to worry.’
      • ‘They were the ones for which she would preen herself for every night for what seemed like bloody hours (hair, makeup, clothes).’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They start cramming the barricades, the ladies start primping and preening themselves in their compact mirrors.’
      • ‘He disappeared for a while and then I found him at the dressing table, preening himself before the mirror.’
      admire oneself, primp oneself, primp, prink oneself
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    2. 1.2preen oneself Congratulate or pride oneself.
      ‘it did not prevent them from preening themselves on their achievement’
      • ‘The police last week in Sunderland preened themselves on how good intelligence had enabled them to spot and control the troublemakers.’
      • ‘For almost 10 years, I have preened myself on this single modest benefaction.’
      • ‘We preened ourselves for reaching the quarter-finals of soccer's World Cup, and now it doesn't matter so much if we don't bring home the Ashes, just as long as we don't get battered in every game.’
      • ‘All we saw them do was sit in restaurants preening themselves and getting drunk on wine.’
      • ‘This means they don't know when to stop preening themselves.’
      • ‘He was there last week, preening himself, powerful and proud as ever, but unmistakably a man who had overstayed his welcome.’
      • ‘‘As you wish, Captain,’ Tyrr replied simply, mentally preening himself for the accomplishment.’
      congratulate oneself, be pleased with oneself, pride oneself, be proud of oneself, pat oneself on the back, give oneself a pat on the back, feel self-satisfied
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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).