Definition of sting in English:



  • 1A small sharp-pointed organ at the end of the abdomen of bees, wasps, ants, and scorpions, capable of inflicting a painful or dangerous wound by injecting poison.

    • ‘They made clay containers filled with little flying insects that had poisonous stings, which were then fired off.’
    • ‘The poor fellow has neither the tusks of the elephant, nor the claws of the lion, nor even the horns or pointed teeth or stings and poison glands.’
    • ‘It had a man's face with 3 rows of extremely sharp teeth in each jaw, a lion's body and a long tail with a sting like a scorpion's.’
    • ‘They do have a sting in their tail - one venomous spike - but this is only used when under attack.’
    • ‘She found the poison sting still in his body and from the odour, she knew that he had come to the child in the form of a scorpion.’
    • ‘Householders are being tormented by the buzzing wasps and businesses like restaurants and pubs are being plagued by the insects with a sting in their tail.’
    1. 1.1Any of a number of minute hairs or other organs of plants, jellyfishes, etc., which inject a poisonous or irritating fluid when touched.
      ‘a nettle-like plant with no sting’
      • ‘So they add defences - thistles have prickles and tough leaves, nettles have stings, other plants have toxins.’
      • ‘I began to bleed at impact and quickly drew my finger away from the sting of the sharp plant.’
      • ‘A new cream, which prevents the jellyfish from firing their stings when touched, recently became available - just in time for the seasonal invasion of millions of small, purple jellyfish.’
    2. 1.2A wound from a sting.
      ‘a wasp or bee sting’
      • ‘On the afternoon of his death, a bronchial spasm caused by the wasp stings had caused him breathing difficulties, which had left his lungs hyper-inflated.’
      • ‘The sting is usually painful, and there can be serious symptoms, such as stomach pain, difficulty breathing, muscle paralysis and fits.’
      • ‘Two wasp stings nearly cost a Heybridge woman her life as a sharp increase of call-outs to deal with the striped pests was reported in mid-Essex.’
      • ‘Dilute vinegar is good first aid for box jellyfish and Portuguese man-of-war stings.’
      • ‘Wasp stings can range from a painful bite to very severe cases where death can result.’
      • ‘Wasp stings are regarded as passing inconveniences.’
      • ‘What the books often don't tell you is that there are another set of spikes on the side of the gill plates, which can also inflict a painful sting.’
      • ‘Although scorpion stings can be devastatingly painful, they are not usually lethal to humans.’
      • ‘Last year, several bathers suffered severe and painful stings while swimming among the jellyfish in the Mersey estuary.’
      • ‘‘We know that 99 per cent are going to be wasp stings and grazed knees but we are equipped to deal with situations from collapses to heart attacks,’ he explained.’
      • ‘Some stings inflict only blisters, but others are strong enough to kill a human.’
      • ‘Despite suffering from sunburn, jellyfish stings and lack of sleep, we all survived and are no worse for wear.’
      • ‘In the UK, most bites and stings are painful but harmless and only affect the area around the sting.’
      • ‘She says that for centuries, plantain has been used to provide immediate relief from mosquito bites, hornet stings and the painful itching of poison ivy or poison oak.’
      • ‘It is believed the wasp stings triggered an asthmatic response in his airways, which was coupled with an allergic reaction.’
      • ‘Most scorpion stings are merely painful, leading to swelling in the immediate region of the sting, but some scorpions of northern Africa and the American southwest can be deadly.’
      • ‘Their painful stings can ultimately lead to death for some people and newborn livestock.’
      • ‘A centipede bite is comparable to a wasp sting in its severity.’
      • ‘Jellyfish stings are common and may be treated with heat application.’
      • ‘Treatment of jellyfish stings in the United States and the Caribbean is concerned mostly with limiting pain and neurologic symptoms.’
      prick, wound, injury
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    3. 1.3A sharp tingling or burning pain or sensation.
      ‘she felt the sharp sting of tears behind her eyelids’
      • ‘He'd been whacked around a lot as a kid, he says, so any punishment absent the sting of physical pain didn't feel like punishment.’
      • ‘With the sting of the gas still in his eyes he had headed off with hundreds of other youths to join the growing crowds in Namak Mandi - the salt bazaar - in the centre of the city.’
      • ‘The only sensation is the sting of the wind, cold and laced with salt.’
      • ‘The married mother-of-five had been about to go into a haberdashery shop in Burgess Road when she felt a sharp sting on the back of her left leg.’
      • ‘He crushed the tracking device in his hand, ignoring the sting of sharp metal on his palm.’
      • ‘Before he could react, a black shadow had descended upon him, causing a sharp sting of pain to run through his right arm.’
      • ‘As one whizzed just past my face, I felt a sharp sting of pain on my right cheek.’
      • ‘For the first time in almost three years I felt the sting of tears in the corners of my eyelids.’
      • ‘Some of it hit my radio man, and I tried to go out and bring him back, and that's when I felt a sharp sting in my shoulder.’
      • ‘I felt the sting of tears behind my eyes but found no where else to hide.’
      • ‘Suddenly there was a great hollowness in her chest and she fought the sharp sting of new tears.’
      • ‘He used the dampened cotton to dab at her wounds; giving a slight sting each time it touched her skin for how long he held it there.’
      • ‘Here he removes the sting of onions and brightens them up by marinating them in lemon juice.’
      • ‘I swung into the tree and immediately felt a sharp sting of pain surge through my arm.’
      • ‘In the old days a method of easing the sting of sunburn was to make a potato poultice which would give rapid relief.’
      • ‘The cuff sent me sprawling to the floor with a painful sting in my cheek, and a hurt feeling in the pit of my stomach.’
      • ‘It pooled in his throat and in rivulets across his flat stomach, trickling into the wound with the raw sting of salt.’
      • ‘Before any of the women could speak, Gale felt the sting of something sharp, and willed herself not to look at the doctor's work.’
      • ‘The sting from his hand touching it really hurt so I turned around to see what he was doing.’
      • ‘A shot fired from less than 5 metres can hurt, like a sharp sting, and on occasion even leave a small bruise, but this all adds to the reality.’
      smarting, smart, stinging, tingling, tingle, pricking
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    4. 1.4[in singular]A hurtful quality or effect.
      ‘I recalled the sting of his betrayal’
      ‘she smiled to take the sting out of her words’
      • ‘In 1996, Kentucky was smarting from the sting of its regional final collapse against North Carolina the previous season.’
      • ‘I feel the sting of judgment whenever I raise the prospect of a third child.’
      • ‘But speaking out regularly in a structured environment will take the sting out of shyness on the social scene.’
      • ‘The sting of his satire is often viewed as an attack on the economic and social circumstances of the day.’
      • ‘Let all those who dare to cross you feel the power of your cannons, the bite of rapier, and the sting of your razor sharp wit.’
      heartache, heartbreak, agony, torture, torment, hurt, pain, anguish, distress, desolation, misery
      sharpness, severity, bite, edge, pointedness, asperity, pungency, mordancy, acerbity, acidity, tartness
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  • 2informal A carefully planned operation, typically one involving deception.

    ‘five blackmailers were jailed last week after they were snared in a police sting’
    • ‘Criminal investigation officers planned a sting operation to catch the young miscreants following numerous complaints.’
    • ‘But they demanded an immediate stop to controversial sting operations where undercover police pose as customers.’
    • ‘Trading Standards officers and police will run sting operations to trap traders selling powerful, illegal fireworks or selling to children.’
    • ‘Police set up a sting operation to catch the man distributing the crystalline drug, known as Ice.’
    • ‘He launched a secret operation, codenamed Satiety, which was one of the most carefully executed stings in Scotland Yard's history.’
    • ‘His scam ran for three years, ending in September 2001, after a sting conducted by undercover police.’
    • ‘Earlier this week 11 ticket vendors were detained by Pattaya police in a sting operation.’
    • ‘The JTTFs are now proving good vehicles for operational coordination in raids, undercover stings, and intensive surveillance.’
    • ‘The nine-month undercover sting saw two police officers infiltrate drug users and dealers in the town and buy heroin and crack cocaine from them.’
    • ‘Swindon's Operation Delta burglary squad has been working closely with the Metropolitan Police on an undercover sting operation.’
    • ‘When a £3m deal was struck, the buyer turned out to be an undercover police officer and gang members were arrested in a sting operation at Antwerp airport.’
    • ‘Officers planned a sting operation and handed a marked 500 baht note to pay off one of the men.’
    • ‘A Canadian man has been arrested for advanced fee fraud following a sting operation instigated by a Connecticut woman fed up with receiving scam emails.’
    • ‘It was the FBI doing a sting on a State Police officer.’
    • ‘They were arrested by FBI agents in an undercover sting known as Operation Smoking Dragon.’
    • ‘The 12 men were arrested on Wednesday in a sting operation as police and army officials sought to crack down on illegal quarrying.’
    • ‘This basically provides an exemption so that the police can conduct sting operations for alcohol, as they do for tobacco.’
    • ‘The anti-drugs campaign committee will be managing the proceeds and will use some of the money for sting operations to help police break up drug rings.’
    • ‘He rolls along nicely in this manner until the police mount a sting operation and arrest him.’
    • ‘Their operation had been successful for 8 months before police moved in to arrest them in a sting operation.’
    swindle, fraud, piece of deception, trickery, cheat, bit of sharp practice
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  • 1[with object] Wound or pierce with a sting.

    ‘he was stung by a jellyfish’
    [no object] ‘a nettle stings if you brush it lightly’
    • ‘One evening we labored, stung by nettles and mosquitoes, to set up Sewell's camera blind on Otter Pond in the great marsh.’
    • ‘There is also a new and rampant variety of anemone on the bottom, and the chance of being stung by jellyfish or anemone is no longer unlikely.’
    • ‘We reached the dive site without incident, every pair had a dive in turn and all divers were stung equally badly by jellyfish.’
    • ‘These flies do not bite or sting humans, and are considered beneficial, as they are predacious on aphids and other insects.’
    • ‘If you should get stung by a box jellyfish, you won't get off lightly.’
    • ‘A businessman from East Yorkshire has died after being stung by a tiny jellyfish in what is thought to be the first known fatality of its kind.’
    • ‘She would use the nettle to discreetly sting herself when arthritis stiffened her fingers.’
    • ‘My bare legs were instantly stung by nettles, and a swarm of wasps gathered around the fake flower-reeds I had to drape myself in to become Titania.’
    • ‘As they drive, a bug stings Stan and his arm starts to swell badly.’
    • ‘It is the rash you get when you have been stung by nettles.’
    • ‘When the scorpion stings him before he can get to it, it introduces pain and panic.’
    • ‘Pets such as dogs and cats may bite if mis-handled or frightened, and wild animals such as snakes and jellyfish might bite or sting if disturbed.’
    • ‘The most terrifying is the story of the swimmer stung by a particular kind of jellyfish.’
    • ‘Getting stung by a jellyfish is among summer's beach bummers.’
    • ‘Hopefully we won't be maimed by saltwater crocodiles, eaten by sharks, or stung by poisonous jellyfish.’
    • ‘I cautiously waded in up to my thighs, and was immediately stung by a jellyfish.’
    • ‘After a happy few hours snorkelling on Monday, I was unfortunate enough to be stung by a jelly-fish while walking in the surf on Wednesday.’
    • ‘If you get do get stung by a jellyfish, always apply vinegar immediately.’
    • ‘It is thought the animal was either bitten or stung by an insect.’
    • ‘When a bee or wasp stings, it releases pheromones that give off an alarm signal, which then alerts the other members of the colony about where to attack.’
    prick, wound, injure, hurt
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    1. 1.1Feel or cause to feel a sharp tingling or burning pain or sensation.
      [no object] ‘her eyes stung as if she might cry again’
      [with object] ‘the brandy stung his throat’
      ‘a stinging pain’
      • ‘A single tear slipped from her eye, stinging the wound even further.’
      • ‘The open wound in my shoulder stung sharply, but I merely held it as tight as I could, willing the bleeding to stop.’
      • ‘The air was cool and sharp and stung her nostrils a little as she breathed it in.’
      • ‘I hissed as my left leg started to sting again from the wound I'd gotten trying to escape the last time.’
      • ‘The cuts stung with burning pain, and I was tempted to stop, but I couldn't.’
      • ‘She gasped as he hit the tender parts and moaned as he dabbed it with something that stung at her wound like alcohol was being poured over the gaping flesh.’
      • ‘I heard loud bangs on the window, and we felt stinging, choking sensations in our throats.’
      • ‘A pepper grain went up my nose, and the spicy broth stung my throat terribly.’
      • ‘The puncture wound stings a little and, more alarming, my forearms and hands begin tingling.’
      • ‘The wounds stung and I shuddered when she applied the pressure.’
      • ‘Ask if the perifistular skin has burning or stinging sensations, usually indicative of denuded skin.’
      • ‘At first the saltwater stung his wounds, but he got used to it, letting the water clean him up.’
      • ‘The air outside was crisp and very cold, the kind of cold that is sharp and stings the throat.’
      • ‘Her open wounds seemed to sting with every move and even if the lightest fabric touched her bruises, she was forced to yelp in pain.’
      • ‘Pain from his arm was rising intensely from the glass cutting into his palm and the sweat that subsequently stung the wound.’
      • ‘A sharp pain stung his neck, and he lifted a hand to explore the area, grimly satisfied when he found a small dart, about as long as a joint of his index finger.’
      • ‘The wind picked up and this sand was just hitting you without let up and it was a biting, piercing, stinging aggravation.’
      • ‘His wounds still stung from the day before but the serum he brought with him would heal them in less than three days.’
      • ‘A sharp burning sensation stung just below his shoulder, thrusting his slim frame forward in the saddle.’
      • ‘It must be a stressful time for him but up here on the hill, in the clear and biting air which stings the skin, it seems easy to leave behind the cares of the world.’
      smart, tingle, burn, be painful, hurt, be irritated, be sore, ache
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    2. 1.2[with object](typically of something said) hurt or upset (someone)
      ‘stung by her mockery, Frank hung his head’
      • ‘The players were obviously stung by criticism of their performance in Christchurch and determined to make amends.’
      • ‘Apparently stung by the criticisms, unnamed American officials attempted to set the record straight.’
      • ‘The words hurt, stinging me because there was some truth to them.’
      • ‘Her words were meant to sting and hurt, to make him feel equally as bad as he had made her now feel.’
      • ‘Finally announcing pricing details for its broadband satellite service, BTopenworld has stung Internet users just where it hurts the most.’
      upset, wound, distress, make miserable, cut to the quick, sear, grieve, hurt, pain, torment, mortify
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    3. 1.3Provoke someone to do (something) by causing annoyance or offence.
      ‘he was stung into action by an article in the paper’
      • ‘Socrates' preferred analogy for his own role in the city was that of a gadfly, who lit upon his fellow citizens and sought to sting them into a healthy state of intellectual wakefulness.’
      • ‘That score stung Edinburgh into raising the pace once more and they briefly rediscovered the all-action style that had been so evident during the first half, earning a penalty which Laney converted to narrow the gap to a single point.’
      • ‘This time last season, the Mansfield Football Club was stung into action.’
      • ‘This score stung St. Forcherns into action and from the kick-out the ball reached Ailish who took on the MLR backline and crashed home a good goal to give her side a two point advantage.’
      • ‘Jackie, whose eight-year-old daughter Libby has cerebral palsy, said she was stung into action when she was asked if disabled children needed to play.’
      • ‘However this stung him into action and by half-time the visitors were 26-5 down.’
      • ‘Having been breached so comfortably, United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were stung into action.’
      • ‘This score stung him into action and the rest of the half was played out between the two 22s.’
      • ‘The meeting came after the Selby Labour MP stung her into action by in effect accusing her of preparing to give Yorkshire miners even worse treatment than Lady Thatcher had meted out.’
      • ‘Somehow that reality stung me into confronting the person my mother intended me to be, and who I would become if I kept stealing.’
      provoke, goad, incite, spur, prick, prod, rouse, stir up, drive, move, motivate, galvanize, stimulate
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  • 2informal [with object] Swindle or exorbitantly overcharge (someone)

    ‘I had to buy some boxer shorts at the last minute and got stung for £42.50!’
    • ‘I'm pretty close to the station, but if for some reason I wanted to catch the bus part of the way, I'd be stung for an extra zone 2 fare.’
    • ‘It means that I'm probably going to be stung for excess baggage charges when I check in, but I should be able to claim that back from the company.’
    • ‘Otherwise, you may be stung for as much as a fiver.’
    • ‘So if you sold the rental property within the first 3 years you could benefit from the rental income, and then sell without being stung for CGT.’
    • ‘On top of that you'll be stung for a £15 monthly fee as well and an additional £20 each time you overdraw.’
    • ‘Over the last three years, Irish banks have been stung for an average of €5 million annually as a result of credit card fraud.’
    • ‘Elaine - who was stung for a staggering £660-was so incensed she has launched a campaign.’
    • ‘If we add it all up, we find that the taxpayer could be stung for up to $44 million, and that is without looking at possible appeals.’
    swindle, defraud, cheat, fleece, gull
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  • sting in the tail

    • An unexpected, typically unpleasant or problematic end to something.

      ‘the Budget comes with a sting in the tail—future tax increases’
      • ‘However, there is a sting in the tail - men in Southampton are paid £2.57 an hour more compared to women, even though the Equal Pay Act came into force 35 years ago.’
      • ‘‘Motorists got off lightly on petrol prices in the Budget but this is the sting in the tail,’ said a SIMI chief executive.’
      • ‘While he extended the current venture capital trust schemes, research and development tax credits and capital allowances, there was a surprise sting in the tail for those running some of Britain's smallest enterprises.’
      • ‘And there was a sting in the tail for HBOS, who after leading Adlington CC at half time saw their opponents recover in the second half to win 193-144.’
      • ‘If the benchmarking body does not deliver parity of pay, then we will deliver the sting in the tail.’
      • ‘While he agrees it's a good outcome for shareholders, he believes there could be a sting in the tail for investors as the big players consider their options.’
      • ‘The ‘contingent workforce’ has begun to feel the sting in the tail of ‘flexibility’ and the dart came from none other than Microsoft itself.’
      • ‘But there could be a sting in the tail, with the unexpected surge in jobs putting another interest rate hike back on the RBA's agenda.’
      • ‘For many companies the only alternative to the EMI is an unapproved option scheme, which has a nasty national insurance contribution sting in the tail.’
      • ‘It is a sting in the tail for livestock farmers who had welcomed DEFRA's decision to reduce the movement standstill from 20 days to six.’


Old English sting (noun), stingan (verb), of Germanic origin.