Definition of prickle in US English:



  • 1A short, slender, sharp-pointed outgrowth on the bark or epidermis of a plant; a small thorn.

    ‘the prickles of the blackberry bushes’
    • ‘When mixed in among boundary plants it may even enhance security as the branches bear hooked prickles which reduce its tactility.’
    • ‘Its name reflects the fact that its back bears numerous prickles and thorns sticking up from button-like bases known as bucklers.’
    • ‘Earlier he tried pushing his nose against it and it had felt all prickly even though he couldn't see any prickles.’
    • ‘Due to the proposed similarity in function among thorns, spines, and prickles, we will hereafter generically refer to all plants bearing them as armed.’
    • ‘Well, it is a type of plant that has small leaves and long prickles, and it blooms some small red flowers.’
    • ‘Not everything in the garden is, or should be, lovely - a bit of aggression goes a long way towards introducing drama into the prettiest plot, with spikes, spears, prickles and thorns providing sublime savagery in the flower beds.’
    • ‘The thickened lamina and stiffer tissues that make up veins may, therefore, provide increased mechanical support for the leaf prickles of A. spinosa.’
    • ‘I placed the post in an ackee tree with prickles.’
    • ‘They made their way through the hedges, Valerie being careful to avoid the painful prickles of the thorns.’
    • ‘Structurally, therefore, leaf prickles of A. spinosa resemble the stem prickles of this species as described by Davies and White.’
    • ‘I reached out a hand (why worry about falling now?) and grabbed a berry, scratching my hand slightly on the prickles.’
    • ‘I think it's relevant in the sense that the ouchy side-effects could be seen as a manifestation of guilt or anxiety on the part of the practitioner - prickles of conscience realising themselves through events.’
    • ‘A prickle caught my T-shirt and I pulled the shirt off the prickle and crawled.’
    • ‘It outcompetes forage grasses, and its thornlike prickles pose a threat to workers picking vegetable crops in infested areas.’
    • ‘The first stage is rapid, vigorous growth characterized by unusually dense formation of prickles on stems and canes.’
    • ‘Similar to the color traits, plant prickles were also evaluated for individual organs including stem, leaf, and flower and fruit calyxes.’
    • ‘Consequently it has been allowed to go its own way for the past few years, although I know the time is coming when I will have to don long sleeves and heavy gloves and get amongst the prickles to do some sorting out.’
    thorn, needle, barb, spike, point, spine, quill, spur, bristle, prong, tine
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    1. 1.1 A small spine or pointed outgrowth on the skin of certain animals.
      • ‘A. tuberculata is a Mediterranean species, whose shell is covered with tubercles rather than spines or prickles, and which is another kind with a red inhabitant, well known at Naples as fasolare.’
      • ‘The epidermis of prickles was found to be highly lignified and covered with a thick cuticle.’
      • ‘The distinctive, colourless animal with white prickles, red eyes and pink feet is being treated with antibiotics at the Withington Hedgehog Hospital on Parsonage Road.’
      needle, quill, bristle, barb, spike
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    2. 1.2 A tingling sensation on someone's skin, typically caused by strong emotion.
      ‘Kathleen felt a prickle of excitement’
      • ‘It's difficult to hear that line without feeling a prickle of excitement.’
      • ‘She ignored the small prickle of pain, thinking that Apika would surely have an antidote.’
      • ‘He growled, and I felt a prickle of fear, he had never talked to me like this before.’
      • ‘The passage's haughty assurance raised a prickle of annoyance in Jeremiah.’
      • ‘There was a look - a distinct one - that made me feel a prickle of suspicion.’
      • ‘I had just buckled up when I felt the tiny prickles of anxiety that are the first signs of approaching panic.’
      • ‘She looked up at me, and I felt a little prickle of… something.’
      • ‘For just a moment Silver felt a prickle of unease about her choice of this man, but it was too late for doubts now.’
      • ‘A wave of prickles traveled down her spine, forcing her to shudder on the spot.’
      • ‘‘I dreamt about you last night,’ he tells her, and she's suddenly prickling with curiosity and self-consciousness.’
      • ‘I remember the prickle of excitement on my skin when listening to ‘Dookie’ in science class ten years ago; this very nearly brings it all back.’
      tingle, tingling sensation, tingling, prickling sensation, chill, thrill, itching, creeping sensation, gooseflesh, goose pimples, pins and needles
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[no object]
  • 1(of a person's skin or a part of the body) experience a tingling sensation, especially as a result of strong emotion.

    ‘the sound made her skin prickle with horror’
    • ‘Maddock felt his eyes prickle with emotion as looked at the fallen man in front of him, but he reminded himself that now wasn't the time.’
    • ‘A wave of calmness ran through his body and prickled as it reached the ends of his limbs.’
    • ‘When he was outside in darkness, lifting a peat from his stack or strolling down the lane from Elspeth's cottage, it made his neck-hairs prickle.’
    • ‘I'd regained total control of my body, and now tingled all over as my skin prickled into awareness, but I wasn't nearly as cold.’
    • ‘I left the door and went back to the window, trying to ignore my skin prickling in expectation that someone would burst in at any minute.’
    • ‘Whenever I was with him, guilt crept through my every inch of me, making my skin prickle and hair stand on end.’
    • ‘In a school built by Anglicans, Canon Thomas is a tall grey-haired Welshman who presents a face of calm in a town that is prickling with nerves.’
    • ‘Her face stung from the cold, her arms prickled, and she shivered slightly.’
    • ‘Her shirt clung to her petit frame, causing the skin to prickle and become clammy.’
    • ‘Nicole's skin prickled with the emotion that she felt radiating from Jadelyn.’
    • ‘The air was cool; her skin prickled from the air and from fear.’
    • ‘She clenched her fists and tightened her body, trying to stop every muscle from prickling with fear.’
    • ‘His thoughts were irrational but even so the hairs on the back of his neck had again begun to tingle and prickle with cool fear.’
    • ‘The flash of power ripples through me, coursing through my internal channels, pushing the boundaries of my skill at controlling it, feeling every nerve in my body prickle at its presence.’
    • ‘Hide could hear the tanned man chuckle to the cop in a friendly manner; something in the tone caused Hide's skin to prickle.’
    • ‘Jack slowed as he approached her, his skin prickling with unease.’
    • ‘She felt the back of her neck prickle with fear, yet somehow she saw that she was walking towards him.’
    • ‘I washed dishes, cleaned floors, read stories… through the whole of that long day… I prickled with guilt.’
    • ‘It was a sudden, indescribable sensation prickling up his spine, sending out a warning to his weak mind.’
    • ‘His throat feels raw, prickling as if somebody had just dragged a bunch of thistles across it.’
    tingle, itch, have a creeping sensation, have goose pimples, have gooseflesh, have goosebumps, have pins and needles
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    1. 1.1with object Cause a tingling or mildly painful sensation in.
      ‘I hate the way the fibers prickle your skin’
      • ‘When I placed my hands in the hot water it felt as if thousands of needles were prickling them.’
      • ‘The wind rushed through the holes in the booth, prickling my skin like wisps of memories flooding my quivering brain.’
      • ‘Latahna held her robe around her and stayed close to the wall, gripping the rough stonework as the hay prickled her arms.’
      • ‘The scruff of his facial hair scratched her face softly, prickling her tender skin as he moved his face away, looking into her eyes.’
      • ‘I leant my head against the window, the chilled glass prickling my skin.’
      • ‘She lifted a single hand from his grasp and traced the bottom of his chin, his stubble prickling her fingers.’
      • ‘My teeth chattered a bit and goose bumps prickled my skin, but I ignored it.’
      • ‘I rubbed the spot where the burr had prickled him, still talking in his ear.’
      • ‘He stopped screaming, but fear prickled his skin and raised goosebumps despite the overwhelming heat.’
      • ‘I blinked, feeling hot tears prickling the corners of my eyes.’
      • ‘With her window open the cold night air prickled her skin and blew through her long calico red hair.’
      • ‘I grimaced and turned around starting to feel the winter freeze prickle the exposed back of my neck.’
      • ‘Tanya stripped her Dior gold kitten heels off, feeling the blades of the grass prickling her bare feet as she did so.’
      • ‘There was a sweltering heat that prickled his back and the back of his neck.’
      • ‘The warmth is prickling my skin and Chris isn't making it any better by being in my house without my permission.’
      • ‘Even so, she was aware of icy sweat prickling her neck.’
      • ‘When the tub was full, Alicia hastily stripped off and sank down into it, savouring the sensation of hot, clean water prickling her skin.’
      • ‘On Tuesday we had a barbeque, the sun prickled my skin and the barbeque filled my stomach, the sky was as blue as Colin Bell's shirt and the beer stopped me from cooking along with the sausages.’
      • ‘I let out a chuckle, ‘Don't pretend to care, Conrad,’ I felt tears prickling my eyes by just thinking about my former family.’
      • ‘My heartbeat accelerated while a thin layer of sweat prickled my neck.’
      make something tingle, make something smart, make something itch
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    2. 1.2 (of a person) react defensively or angrily to something.
      ‘she prickled at the implication that she had led a soft and protected life’
      • ‘All four kids prickled at the detective's dismissal.’


Old English pricel ‘instrument for pricking, sensation of being pricked’; related to Middle Dutch prickel, from the Germanic base of prick. The verb is partly a diminutive of the verb prick.