Definition of prick in English:



  • 1Make a small hole in (something) with a sharp point; pierce slightly.

    ‘prick the potatoes with a fork’
    • ‘People pricked by errant needles can get specialized treatment at the Post Exposition Centre of the St-Luc Hospital.’
    • ‘A nurse comes over and takes a blood sample by pricking the baby's finger with a needle and squeezing blood into a test tube.’
    • ‘For the grapefruit confit: In a pot, combine grapefruit sections, water and sugar and cook on low until the peel is tender when pricked.’
    • ‘Two weeks before, she had pricked her index finger on a thorny cactus.’
    • ‘The flesh steams inside the potato's skin, and pricking it before putting it into the oven allows some of this steam to escape.’
    • ‘Homer got out a hunting knife and pricked his thumb.’
    • ‘All you do is half the tomatoes and fry them in butter for five minutes, first cut side down, over a moderate heat, all the time pricking the firm sides with a sharp knife.’
    • ‘A needle pricked her arm and Diana felt her blood gushing into the little tube that was attached to the sharp needle.’
    • ‘Babies have their heels pricked after they are born to perform a test.’
    • ‘A needle pricks my arm and slowly all my muscles begin to relax.’
    • ‘Fee jammed her finger into a small hole, wincing as a needle pricked it, and a drop of blood fell on the DNA scanner.’
    • ‘Muttering to myself about the size of my purse, I pricked myself on a mechanical pencil tip.’
    • ‘He grabbed a needle-like object and pricked a hole in the tool.’
    • ‘When I crawl into my bag, a sharp object pricks my thigh and I grope after it: pinecone.’
    • ‘Meanwhile fry or poach the egg (eggs poach fine, yolk pricked, in a ramekin in a domestic microwave).’
    • ‘Mrs Harris said while one villager was gardening he narrowly missed pricking his finger on a needle thrown in his hedge.’
    • ‘Oliver took out a needle and pricked his index finger and squeezed a drop of blood onto an empty slide.’
    • ‘But that goes out of the window the minute the first needle pricks the buttocks, shattering the calm of any expectations.’
    • ‘The young man lay on his bare back, feeling the needles pricking his skin and listening to the sound of the tattoo instrument.’
    • ‘The parents of a youngster who pricked his finger on a hypodermic needle in a park face an agonising wait to find out if he has caught any diseases.’
    pierce, puncture, make a hole in, put a hole in, stab, perforate, rupture, riddle, penetrate, nick, spear, slit, incise, knife, bore, spike, skewer, spit, stick, punch, pin, needle, jag, jab
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    1. 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’
      • ‘Slowly, she could feel an extraordinary force of power behind her, as if pricking on her skin to taunt her.’
      • ‘A strange, unfamiliar yet intimately familiar sensation pricked at her back then, and she reached back to touch… what on earth!’
      • ‘It was not merely irritation that pricked at me.’
      • ‘Shame and loneliness pricked at the boy's flesh.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He can see nothing, but he can feel the nearness of the Spider - sharpness pricking at his throat with unexpected care.’
      • ‘He lathered up in the shower, the water pricking and pounding down on his skin.’
      • ‘The pain in her lip increased and a sudden sharp pain pricked at her gums.’
      • ‘Relieved at some respite from this situation, the daggers of worry which had been pricking at my mind began to leave for just the briefest of moments…’
      • ‘Her voice towards Millie was somewhat pricking and authoritative.’
      • ‘Blotchy foot skin then develops with swelling, numbness, tingling, pricking or a wooden feeling in the feet.’
      • ‘Often had little Emit heard the sounds at night - sharp sounds that pricked at his ears and his temples.’
      • ‘But the thought of War still pricked at Ryane's mind.’
      sting, smart, burn, tingle, prickle, itch
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    2. 1.2(of tears) cause the sensation of imminent weeping in (a person's eyes)
      ‘tears of disappointment were pricking her eyelids’
      • ‘Tears pricked my eyes, but I made steady my voice.’
      • ‘Shivering, I started to hum the song my mother used to sing to me, tears pricking my eyes.’
      • ‘Tears pricked her eyes and she wiped them away at once.’
      • ‘Manda clamped her hand to her mouth, feeling tears pricking her eyes.’
      • ‘Tears pricked Martha's eyes as she hugged Tanya back.’
      • ‘She felt tears pricking her eyes, and realized they had been there since she had touched his face.’
      • ‘Stella's head started spinning and she felt tears pricking her eyes.’
      • ‘I felt tears of shame prick my eyes, but I forced them back, looking up at Ella.’
      • ‘Sensing her despair, Malachi felt tears pricking his own eyes.’
      • ‘Tears pricked Melissa's eyes at the scorn in Marsey's voice and for a moment she looked as if she would crumble.’
      • ‘He felt tears pricking his eyes again, and brushed them away.’
      • ‘When I woke later that day, tears of shame pricked my eyes.’
      • ‘Aislinn slumped back against the pillows, feeling tears prick her eyes.’
      • ‘I felt unexpected tears prick my eyes and a lump swelled in my throat.’
      • ‘The memory jolted me and fresh tears pricked my eyes.’
      • ‘She told her twin of their sister without any emotion, and her brother only nodded, silent tears pricking his eyes and disappearing without falling.’
      • ‘Tears pricked my eyes but I forced them not to fall.’
      • ‘Tears pricked her eyes, she stared at the letter in shock.’
      • ‘Tears pricked her eyes, her cheeks looked flushed, and she hung up the phone without another word.’
      • ‘By the time Lydia had earned her breakfast, her delicate hands were red and stinging, and tears pricked her eyes as she bathed them.’
      sting, smart, burn, tingle, prickle, itch
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    3. 1.3Cause mental or emotional discomfort to.
      ‘her conscience pricked her as she told the lie’
      • ‘It pricked many a conscience, a reminder of how we missed Peter's advice.’
      • ‘Nonetheless, it still bothered him in the back of his mind, pricking at him like an annoying and persistent mosquito, which just wouldn't let up.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘There is a happy ending, however, as Zigby, pricked by a guilty conscience, builds the friendly ants a new home out of mud.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘His conscience pricked him as he cleaned and dressed himself.’
      • ‘His political conscience is pricked into life by his friendship with black school caretaker Gordon.’
      • ‘I guess it means that we should keep pricking away at him but make no serious effort to get him to resign or step down.’
      • ‘It may or may not prick someone's conscience to cause them to come forward, even if it's just a passenger.’
      • ‘Her conscience pricked her every time she thought of how mad she had gotten at Kirby before The Christmas Concert and had nearly deserted her friend.’
      • ‘The blind loyalty to a charismatic leader or group without heeding conscience when it pricks us on issues.’
      • ‘Her conscience pricked as she took one of the seats near the very back corner.’
      • ‘Interviewing film stars can be a laborious, arid affair: frail egos and zeppelin-like self-importance easily pricked.’
      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
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    4. 1.4Arouse or provoke to action.
      ‘the police were pricked into action’
      • ‘He wasn't going to tell us, but now it seems he has been pricked into action.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They were only pricked into action in the last 15 minutes after struggling Walsall had gone ahead with a lovely move.’
      goad, prod, incite, provoke, urge, spur, sting, whip, prompt, stimulate, encourage, inspire, motivate, push, propel, impel
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  • 2(especially of a horse or dog) make (the ears) stand erect when on the alert.

    ‘the dog's tail was wagging and her ears were pricked’
    • ‘With his ears pricked, Heart slowed himself up.’
    • ‘The three horses tied out front pricked their ears, giving a start.’
    • ‘He nodded curtly to the noble, and then shouted the command to remount, which they did, the horses tossing their heads, ears pricked in excitement.’
    • ‘Taking the lead as the field straightened for home, Pegasus charged down the middle of the stretch with his ears pricked, signally he still had plenty left.’
    • ‘She looked back to her horse, whose ears were pricked forward in anticipation.’
    • ‘Demon picked his head up and pricked his ears forward as he watched the other stallion moving away.’
    • ‘Whilst I was doing this, my Mother said she heard a voice calling something, and the dog's ears pricked up.’
    • ‘The horse pricked its ears and let loose a shrill whinny, trotting to Robyn.’
    • ‘The surge in my stomach because it could still happen, because it was happening in a matter of seconds as they rushed to the line, my horse's head down, ears pricked back, nostrils flared, winning.’
    • ‘Nearby stood the two deer-creatures, ears pricked, watching with curiosity rather than alarm.’
    • ‘As Leigh and Woodhouse point out, a horse with its ears pricked can be showing the sign of ‘an alert and willing horse’.’
    raise, erect, point
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  • 1An act of piercing something with a fine, sharp point.

    ‘the pin prick had produced a drop of blood’
    • ‘The sudden prick in his arm wasn't enough to shake his thoughts and he jerked away from it.’
    • ‘The pin is uncapped, but its prick is no worse than a grenade by your side, or the constant threat of sudden death.’
    • ‘‘Aha,’ she said suddenly, as Timon felt a sudden prick in his finger.’
    • ‘She applied a little pressure for a moment, sure it wouldn't bleed much more since it was only a little prick, then looked up at Alex.’
    • ‘A tiny prick is made on your finger and the minute sample used to ensure that you are not anaemic or ill in any other way.’
    • ‘Breast feeding was allowed for two minutes and stopped before a heel prick.’
    • ‘He muttered under his breath as she was lost from sight and turned as a sharp prick was felt on his neck.’
    • ‘There's now again this huge industry which in your career has just expanded, and most people who've had a baby are aware that their baby has a heel prick in the first week of life before they go home, usually, or by the nurse at home.’
    • ‘She saw Jesica turn away as the sharp prick of teeth caused her blood to flow.’
    • ‘As though rebuking her, she felt the sharp prick of a needle on her arm.’
    • ‘If possible, it is preferable to use consistently either finger prick or venous blood.’
    • ‘The pain associated with lancet pricks has been largely overcome.’
    • ‘He started to turn around when he felt a sharp prick by the side of his neck.’
    • ‘At that moment, someone entered the room and Jared felt a sharp pin prick in his arm.’
    • ‘I feel the prick of the pin against my skin and wonder where my friends and family would be in another time.’
    • ‘Haemoglobin concentration was measured by finger prick before and 24 hours after delivery.’
    • ‘With a simply prick of a needle; he had enough blood to test.’
    • ‘Maybe those nurses and sergeants had had more important things to think about than feelings regarding a prick of the skin.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Grab a branch of a young acacia tree crawling with appropriately named thornbugs and you just might utter an ‘ouch’ at the sharp prick.’
    1. 1.1A small hole or mark made by piercing something with a fine, sharp point.
      • ‘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
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    2. 1.2A sharp pain caused by being pierced with a fine point.
      • ‘I can only hope I am getting an ear infection, but I am used to small pains and pricks when it comes to my ear.’
      • ‘I felt a sharp prick in my leg and looked down to see the needle was stuck firmly in my flesh.’
      • ‘It's hard to have such a connection with you. when you get hurt I feel it a little too, and as you always get hurt, I keep feeling these little pricks of pain, you know?’
      • ‘Instantly there was a needle prick of pain, but it dulled and Angel lost feeling in her foot.’
      • ‘Just need to extract some fluid, only a little prick, it won't hurt… tell me about your holiday… where did you go?’
      • ‘He had been leaning against the trunk only a moment when he felt a sharp prick on the back of his neck.’
      • ‘She felt a sharp prick in her arm and slowly the world fell away.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Some regions are involved in delivering descriptive information about the feeling - where it is, how intense it is, whether it's a dull soreness or a sharp prick.’
      • ‘I hadn't looked at the scratch despite all my chances to; it just didn't seem that serious, and I didn't like to think about the annoying pricks of pain I got if I really took the time to consider it.’
      • ‘Trist felt a sharp prick of pain in his chest, but did not look down.’
      • ‘He was beautiful, she thought, then pulled back from that thought as from the prick of a thorn.’
      • ‘Whatever it is, refuge from these pricks of a thousand pins is costly.’
      • ‘Five seconds later, she felt more tiny pricks in her hand.’
      • ‘I felt a prick of pain at my throat, and even in this hazy state, I comprehended that Fraust had only nicked me.’
      • ‘‘No,’ said Echo, beginning to feel tiny needle pricks in her eyes.’
      • ‘As the dagger pierced Mystic's arm he felt a small prick.’
      • ‘He winced as the sharp prick of pain told him he was awake and then smiled.’
      • ‘Tiny pricks of pain jabbed her in numerous places.’
      • ‘She couldn't help but feel the prick of pins and needles running up and down her arms.’
      jab, sting, pinprick, stab, nick, jag
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    3. 1.3A sudden feeling of distress, anxiety, or some other unpleasant emotion.
      ‘she felt a prick of resentment’
      • ‘Indeed, had she and Colonel Leek been sharing confidential affections, he might have felt a prick of jealousy.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I felt a prick of anxiety, but that was nothing compared to what I usually felt.’
      • ‘A prick of fear nibbled at her new - found joy and she opened the door slowly.’
      • ‘Lately He had been having these pricks of elation, pangs of notorious jubilance.’
      pang, pricking, twinge, stab, gnawing
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    4. 1.4archaic A goad for oxen.
      • ‘As a result, the prick would be driven deeper into the flesh of the rebellious animal.’
      • ‘The prick was usually a wooden shaft with a pointed spike (prick) at one end.’
      prod, spiked stick, spike, staff, crook, pole, rod
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  • 2vulgar slang A penis.

    1. 2.1A man regarded as stupid, unpleasant, or contemptible.


  • kick against the pricks

    • Hurt oneself by persisting in useless resistance or protest.

      • ‘When I last left you - it seems so much longer than seven years - I knew in my heart that I was kicking against the pricks.’
      • ‘In his world at least those angry young men of his youth are still forever young and eternally kicking against the pricks.’
      • ‘They are still kicking against the pricks for all they are worth but fortunately they have remembered to write some tunes this time around.’
      • ‘Ned is portrayed as both the good son taking responsibility for his big Irish immigrant family and the rebel offspring of a ne'er do well: lacking guidance but not the urge to kick against the pricks of a boorish Victoria constabulary.’
      • ‘They might have been Dagenham car workers, Yorkshire miners, Scottish dockers, dustbin men or printers, shimmering spectres now from distant times when to kick against the pricks was considered admirable rather than merely pointless.’
      • ‘He has constantly kicked against the pricks in the film business, hence the curmudgeonly tag.’
      • ‘Young Tim just wants a 10-speed bike but the effort he expends kicking against the pricks - brother, parents, teachers - is enough to drive insane even the healthiest among us.’
      • ‘His conscience was reached: he faced up to the fact that he had been kicking against the pricks.’
      • ‘I'm glad - more than glad, I'm indebted in a multitude of ways and even if I disagree with her on the details deeply grateful - that she is around to kick against the pricks, as exhausting and demoralizing an avocation as that is.’
      • ‘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.’
  • prick up one's ears

    • 1(especially of a horse or dog) make the ears stand erect when on the alert.

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Our dog Bruno, who was lying beside the bed (he had forgotten his occasional master long ago) pricked up his ears and I looked towards the porch door.’
      • ‘The dog, on hearing his voice, pricks up his ears.’
      • ‘The phone rings unexpectedly in the night, and Bronwyn pricks up her ears and lifts a dog eyebrow as if to say ‘Who was that?’’
      • ‘The mare pricked up her ears at mention of her name.’
      • ‘Cats and dogs also demonstrated their natural hunting instincts pricking up their ears when cats, mice and budgies came on the screen.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The lad was in despair, but when the cat heard this, he pricked up his ears.’
      • ‘‘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
      be all ears
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      1. 1.1(of a person) become suddenly attentive.
        ‘he pricked up his ears when he heard them talking about him’
        • ‘When a player of Sundin's stature and talent speaks up about simplifying the game, about playing smart defense-first hockey, his teammates better prick up their ears.’
        • ‘He caught a snippet of conversation from the table behind him; the name ‘Cartwright’ made him prick up his ears.’
        • ‘William listened and pricked up his ears when Mr. Irwin suggested that they should not waste their time on board the Norwood but keep their minds active.’
        • ‘On the face of it, here was a set of ideas that might have made any historical publisher prick up their ears.’
        • ‘Jordan spoke quietly, but everyone pricked up their ears to listen.’
        • ‘Blathe pricked up his ears to listen more carefully.’
        • ‘Excellent speeches are magnetic, but nobody wants to prick up their ears for long to listen to nothing but nonsense.’
        • ‘Voices drifted out from the trailer and I pricked up my ears in spite of myself.’
        • ‘Well, you can easily think that that made me prick up my ears, for the business has not been over good for some years, and an extra couple of hundred would have been very handy.’
        • ‘Getting thoroughly interested in this tale, the eavesdropper had pricked up his ears a little more.’
        listen carefully, pay attention, become attentive, begin to take notice, attend, concentrate on hearing, lend an ear, pin one's ears back
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Phrasal Verbs

  • prick something out (or off)

    • Transplant seedlings to a container or bed that provides adequate room for growth.

      ‘he was in the garden pricking out marigolds’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘At the moment I'm still pricking out, but my back garden is already full of flowers.’
      • ‘Spring bedding sown earlier in the summer will be ready to prick out if sown in trays or thin out if in the garden.’
      • ‘Alternatively, collect ripe seed and sow in trays in a cold frame pricking them out when big enough.’
      • ‘She said they are busy all year, growing from seeds, pricking out the plants and growing vegetables in the greenhouse.’
      • ‘The coriander seedlings have fast outstripped everything else and have their first true leaves and need pricking out any time now.’
      • ‘Seeds sown in February that have germinated and formed their first true leaves will need pricking out into small pots.’
      • ‘As May notes: ‘The bigger the roots, the more difficult it is to prick out seedlings and the more damage the plants might suffer.’’
      • ‘Vegetable seedlings pricked out a few weeks ago will be getting stronger now, so consider standing the trays outside the greenhouse by day to harden them off.’


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