Definition of prick in US English:

prick

verb

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

    ‘prick the potatoes with a fork’
    • ‘Homer got out a hunting knife and pricked his thumb.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Mrs Harris said while one villager was gardening he narrowly missed pricking his finger on a needle thrown in his hedge.’
    • ‘The young man lay on his bare back, feeling the needles pricking his skin and listening to the sound of the tattoo instrument.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He grabbed a needle-like object and pricked a hole in the tool.’
    • ‘Fee jammed her finger into a small hole, wincing as a needle pricked it, and a drop of blood fell on the DNA scanner.’
    • ‘Two weeks before, she had pricked her index finger on a thorny cactus.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Babies have their heels pricked after they are born to perform a test.’
    • ‘The flesh steams inside the potato's skin, and pricking it before putting it into the oven allows some of this steam to escape.’
    • ‘But that goes out of the window the minute the first needle pricks the buttocks, shattering the calm of any expectations.’
    • ‘A needle pricked her arm and Diana felt her blood gushing into the little tube that was attached to the sharp needle.’
    • ‘When I crawl into my bag, a sharp object pricks my thigh and I grope after it: pinecone.’
    • ‘Muttering to myself about the size of my purse, I pricked myself on a mechanical pencil tip.’
    • ‘A needle pricks my arm and slowly all my muscles begin to relax.’
    • ‘For the grapefruit confit: In a pot, combine grapefruit sections, water and sugar and cook on low until the peel is tender when pricked.’
    • ‘Oliver took out a needle and pricked his index finger and squeezed a drop of blood onto an empty slide.’
    • ‘People pricked by errant needles can get specialized treatment at the Post Exposition Centre of the St-Luc Hospital.’
    • ‘Meanwhile fry or poach the egg (eggs poach fine, yolk pricked, in a ramekin in a domestic microwave).’
    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. 1.1no object Feel a sensation as though a sharp point were sticking into one.
      ‘she felt her scalp prick and her palms were damp’
      • ‘Shame and loneliness pricked at the boy's flesh.’
      • ‘A strange, unfamiliar yet intimately familiar sensation pricked at her back then, and she reached back to touch… what on earth!’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Often had little Emit heard the sounds at night - sharp sounds that pricked at his ears and his temples.’
      • ‘He can see nothing, but he can feel the nearness of the Spider - sharpness pricking at his throat with unexpected care.’
      • ‘Blotchy foot skin then develops with swelling, numbness, tingling, pricking or a wooden feeling in the feet.’
      • ‘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 lathered up in the shower, the water pricking and pounding down on his skin.’
      • ‘It was not merely irritation that pricked at me.’
      • ‘But the thought of War still pricked at Ryane's mind.’
      • ‘Slowly, she could feel an extraordinary force of power behind her, as if pricking on her skin to taunt her.’
      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’
      • ‘The memory jolted me and fresh tears pricked my eyes.’
      • ‘Tears pricked Martha's eyes as she hugged Tanya back.’
      • ‘Sensing her despair, Malachi felt tears pricking his own eyes.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He felt tears pricking his eyes again, and brushed them away.’
      • ‘Manda clamped her hand to her mouth, feeling tears pricking her 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.’
      • ‘Stella's head started spinning and she felt tears pricking her eyes.’
      • ‘Tears pricked my eyes but I forced them not to fall.’
      • ‘She felt tears pricking her eyes, and realized they had been there since she had touched his face.’
      • ‘When I woke later that day, tears of shame pricked my eyes.’
      • ‘Tears pricked her eyes and she wiped them away at once.’
      • ‘I felt tears of shame prick my eyes, but I forced them back, looking up at Ella.’
      • ‘Shivering, I started to hum the song my mother used to sing to me, tears pricking my eyes.’
      • ‘By the time Lydia had earned her breakfast, her delicate hands were red and stinging, and tears pricked her eyes as she bathed them.’
      • ‘Tears pricked Melissa's eyes at the scorn in Marsey's voice and for a moment she looked as if she would crumble.’
      • ‘Aislinn slumped back against the pillows, feeling tears prick her eyes.’
      • ‘Tears pricked my eyes, but I made steady my voice.’
      • ‘I felt unexpected tears prick my eyes and a lump swelled in my throat.’
      sting, smart, burn, tingle, prickle, itch
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    3. 1.3 Cause mental or emotional discomfort to.
      ‘her conscience pricked her as she told the lie’
      • ‘There is a happy ending, however, as Zigby, pricked by a guilty conscience, builds the friendly ants a new home out of mud.’
      • ‘It may or may not prick someone's conscience to cause them to come forward, even if it's just a passenger.’
      • ‘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 pricked many a conscience, a reminder of how we missed Peter's advice.’
      • ‘His political conscience is pricked into life by his friendship with black school caretaker Gordon.’
      • ‘Interviewing film stars can be a laborious, arid affair: frail egos and zeppelin-like self-importance easily pricked.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Her conscience pricked as she took one of the seats near the very back corner.’
      • ‘The blind loyalty to a charismatic leader or group without heeding conscience when it pricks us on issues.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘His conscience pricked him as he cleaned and dressed himself.’
      • ‘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.’
      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. 1.4 Arouse or provoke to action.
      ‘the police were pricked into action’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Dr. Nair wheedled, and often pricked, the group to bring out their concerns and knowledge about the needs and demands of adolescence.’
      • ‘He wasn't going to tell us, but now it seems he has been pricked into action.’
      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’
    • ‘As Leigh and Woodhouse point out, a horse with its ears pricked can be showing the sign of ‘an alert and willing horse’.’
    • ‘Nearby stood the two deer-creatures, ears pricked, watching with curiosity rather than alarm.’
    • ‘Demon picked his head up and pricked his ears forward as he watched the other stallion moving away.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She looked back to her horse, whose ears were pricked forward in anticipation.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Whilst I was doing this, my Mother said she heard a voice calling something, and the dog's ears pricked up.’
    • ‘The three horses tied out front pricked their ears, giving a start.’
    • ‘With his ears pricked, Heart slowed himself up.’
    • ‘The horse pricked its ears and let loose a shrill whinny, trotting to Robyn.’
    raise, erect, point
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noun

  • 1An act of piercing something with a fine, sharp point.

    ‘the pin prick had produced a drop of blood’
    • ‘The pain associated with lancet pricks has been largely overcome.’
    • ‘At that moment, someone entered the room and Jared felt a sharp pin prick in his arm.’
    • ‘If possible, it is preferable to use consistently either finger prick or venous blood.’
    • ‘He started to turn around when he felt a sharp prick by the side of his neck.’
    • ‘Breast feeding was allowed for two minutes and stopped before a heel prick.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘As though rebuking her, she felt the sharp prick of a needle on her arm.’
    • ‘He muttered under his breath as she was lost from sight and turned as a sharp prick was felt on his neck.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘With a simply prick of a needle; he had enough blood to test.’
    • ‘‘Aha,’ she said suddenly, as Timon felt a sudden prick in his finger.’
    • ‘The pin is uncapped, but its prick is no worse than a grenade by your side, or the constant threat of sudden death.’
    • ‘Grab a branch of a young acacia tree crawling with appropriately named thornbugs and you just might utter an ‘ouch’ at the sharp prick.’
    • ‘She saw Jesica turn away as the sharp prick of teeth caused her blood to flow.’
    • ‘The sudden prick in his arm wasn't enough to shake his thoughts and he jerked away from it.’
    • ‘Haemoglobin concentration was measured by finger prick before and 24 hours after delivery.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I feel the prick of the pin against my skin and wonder where my friends and family would be in another time.’
    • ‘Maybe those nurses and sergeants had had more important things to think about than feelings regarding a prick of the skin.’
    • ‘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.’
    poke, prod, dig, nudge, tap, butt, elbow, shove, punch, jolt
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    1. 1.1 A 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. 1.2 A sharp pain caused by being pierced with a fine point.
      • ‘She couldn't help but feel the prick of pins and needles running up and down her arms.’
      • ‘He was beautiful, she thought, then pulled back from that thought as from the prick of a thorn.’
      • ‘He winced as the sharp prick of pain told him he was awake and then smiled.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Tiny pricks of pain jabbed her in numerous places.’
      • ‘Whatever it is, refuge from these pricks of a thousand pins is costly.’
      • ‘I felt a sharp prick in my leg and looked down to see the needle was stuck firmly in my flesh.’
      • ‘As the dagger pierced Mystic's arm he felt a small 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She felt a sharp prick in her arm and slowly the world fell away.’
      • ‘Five seconds later, she felt more tiny pricks in her hand.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Just need to extract some fluid, only a little prick, it won't hurt… tell me about your holiday… where did you go?’
      • ‘Trist felt a sharp prick of pain in his chest, but did not look down.’
      • ‘Instantly there was a needle prick of pain, but it dulled and Angel lost feeling in her foot.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He had been leaning against the trunk only a moment when he felt a sharp prick on the back of his neck.’
      jab, sting, pinprick, stab, nick, jag
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    3. 1.3 A sudden feeling of distress, anxiety, or some other unpleasant emotion.
      ‘she felt a prick of resentment’
      • ‘I felt a prick of anxiety, but that was nothing compared to what I usually felt.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Lately He had been having these pricks of elation, pangs of notorious jubilance.’
      • ‘Indeed, had she and Colonel Leek been sharing confidential affections, he might have felt a prick of jealousy.’
      • ‘A prick of fear nibbled at her new - found joy and she opened the door slowly.’
      pang, pricking, twinge, stab, gnawing
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  • 2vulgar slang A penis.

    1. 2.1 A man regarded as stupid, unpleasant, or contemptible.
  • 3archaic A spiked stick used for driving oxen.

    • ‘The prick was usually a wooden shaft with a pointed spike (prick) at one end.’
    • ‘As a result, the prick would be driven deeper into the flesh of the rebellious animal.’
    prod, spiked stick, spike, staff, crook, pole, rod
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Phrases

  • kick against the pricks

    • Hurt oneself by persisting in useless resistance or protest.

      • ‘His conscience was reached: he faced up to the fact that he had been kicking against the pricks.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They are still kicking against the pricks for all they are worth but fortunately they have remembered to write some tunes this time around.’
      • ‘In his world at least those angry young men of his youth are still forever young and eternally kicking against the pricks.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He has constantly kicked against the pricks in the film business, hence the curmudgeonly tag.’
      • ‘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.’
  • prick up one's ears

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

      • ‘The dog, on hearing his voice, pricks up his ears.’
      • ‘‘At least you will like the stables, Danin,’ and her mount pricked up his ears at hearing his name.’
      • ‘Cats and dogs also demonstrated their natural hunting instincts pricking up their ears when cats, mice and budgies came on the screen.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      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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      1. 1.1(of a person) become suddenly attentive.
        ‘he pricked up his ears when he heard them talking about him’
        • ‘On the face of it, here was a set of ideas that might have made any historical publisher prick up their 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.’
        • ‘Excellent speeches are magnetic, but nobody wants to prick up their ears for long to listen to nothing but nonsense.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘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.’
        • ‘Blathe pricked up his ears to listen more carefully.’
        • ‘He caught a snippet of conversation from the table behind him; the name ‘Cartwright’ made him prick up his ears.’
        • ‘Jordan spoke quietly, but everyone pricked up their ears to listen.’
        • ‘Voices drifted out from the trailer and I pricked up my ears in spite of myself.’
        listen carefully, pay attention, become attentive, begin to take notice, attend, concentrate on hearing, lend an ear, pin one's ears back
        View synonyms

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

Origin

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

Pronunciation

prick

/prɪk//prik/