Main definitions of thorn in US English:

: thorn1Thorn2



  • 1A stiff, sharp-pointed, straight or curved woody projection on the stem or other part of a plant.

    • ‘Sweating on an assembly line, she strips thorns from flowers bound for countries where people can afford such luxuries.’
    • ‘Her finger caught on one of the thorns hidden beneath a leaf.’
    • ‘Plants also possess a great diversity of physical resistance traits, such as spines and thorns.’
    • ‘I just keep staring at the rose, the petals, the long yellow stamens, stem, the fat red thorns, wanting to say so much.’
    • ‘Workers spray rose bushes, harvest stems, strip them of thorns and pluck the blemished petals.’
    • ‘Certain plants have developed thorns to prevent themselves from being devoured and they work equally well as deterrents for humans too.’
    • ‘Roses ramble over walls, branches stiff with thorns and laden with huge blossoms.’
    • ‘Here in south Texas, where the mesquite brush and most other native plants have thorns and where not a few critters have a mean bite, it helps to be tough.’
    • ‘Having bare feet also made it easier to grip when following a ridge and, since there was not the faintest trace of vegetation anywhere, there was no danger from thorns.’
    • ‘I could easily compare her to a rose: a beautiful flower with piercing thorns.’
    • ‘The untrained eye cannot always distinguish between a blackberry and a raspberry, since the shapes and sizes of the fruit, leaves, and thorns vary, and there are both red blackberries and black raspberries.’
    • ‘Experts have known for some time that cheetahs are particularly prone to eye injuries from thorns and spikes.’
    • ‘But I'm so inherently Texan I love it all - the stickers, the spikes, the thorns, the burrs, the nettles, and the rocks.’
    • ‘It is very difficult to miss this flower with its very vibrant orange leaves and dangerous thorns.’
    • ‘Due to the proposed similarity in function among thorns, spines, and prickles, we will hereafter generically refer to all plants bearing them as armed.’
    • ‘The rural imagery is varied: the rising sap, meadows, individual plants, birds, a bedewed rose among its thorns, storm, flood, and fair weather.’
    • ‘The door was engraved with carvings of dead and live roses with long stems and sharp thorns.’
    • ‘The Romans considered holly to be lucky, and it was later accepted as a symbol by the church - its sharp leaves likened to the thorns worn by Jesus and its berries to the drops of Christ's blood.’
    • ‘Nearly all of the plant life protects itself with thorns, barbs and needles.’
    • ‘The thorns on the rose stem pressed into his skin but he ignored the pain.’
    prickle, spike, barb, spine, bristle
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A source of discomfort, annoyance, or difficulty; an irritation or obstacle.
      ‘the issue has become a thorn in renewing the peace talks’
      See also "a thorn in someone's side" below
      • ‘A friend and I were sitting around commiserating about the things that get to us: unloading small indignities, comparing thorns.’
      • ‘Jake is a big thorn in this school.’
      • ‘However, that thorn has yet to trouble the organisers, who are revitalising and expanding the event.’
      • ‘Why do our love lives have to be a winding road full of obstacles and thorns?’
      • ‘His visits to the shrine have been a thorn that is increasingly irritating relations between the two countries.’
  • 2A thorny bush, shrub, or tree, especially a hawthorn.

    • ‘Pretty soon I sat up with a jerk as something was thrashing like mad in the thorn bush above my head.’
    • ‘With the sun at its highest and the birds falling silent, I had a short siesta under a thorn tree.’
    • ‘She could see a forest surrounding the town, dense and thick, full of dark, tangled trees and thorns that looked scary and uninviting.’
    • ‘The undergrowth of thorns and shrubs was bad enough, but in addition the whole place was chock-full of a sort of reed with long leaves about an inch or so broad.’
    • ‘The lions chased him, and savaged his leg before he fell into a thorn bush too dense for them to reach him.’
    • ‘I sit beside my flowering thorn and drink a little wine.’
    • ‘When he reached Glastonbury he planted his staff, which then took root and grew into a thorn tree.’
    • ‘‘They threw me over the back of a camel and told me they would kill me if I cried,’ he said, sitting quietly under a thorn tree on the outskirts of Turalei.’
    • ‘Instead of a well-equipped school their children are taught beneath the shade of a thorn tree.’
    • ‘Along the banks grew knob thorns, sausage trees, vegetable ivory, ilala palms, mangoes, wild figs, tamarinds and mahogany, as well as the ubiquitous acacia.’
    • ‘Slowly we progress across the crimson lakes of sand, silver pools of sand, enormous hillocks of sand, skirting giant rocks and stubbornly vibrant patches of thorn bush.’
    • ‘Point out any potential hazards to the child, such as thorn bushes or poison ivy.’
    • ‘To this day, a large and twisted thorn tree - the ‘Friar's Thorn’ - grows on the mound where the ceremonies were carried out and it is near here that the ‘Friar's Stone’ is located.’
    • ‘The camels seem to enjoy bunches of dry-looking thorn bush.’
    • ‘I wish to draw everybody's attention to the great value of all established indigenous trees and of camel thorn trees in particular.’
    • ‘In the autumn we intend to plant fruiting species of trees, including gelda rose, hawthorn, hazel, thorn and snowberry.’
    • ‘Huge clusters of thorn bushes, fungus, tree roots and a carpet of dead leaves and pine needles made walking a chore.’
  • 3An Old English and Icelandic runic letter, Þ or þ, representing the dental fricatives /T͟H/ and /TH/. In English it was eventually superseded by the digraph th.

    Compare with eth
    • ‘Similarly, thorn may represent either a voiceless or a voiced sound: compare the current use of the digraph th in three and these.’


  • there is no rose without a thorn

    • proverb Every apparently desirable situation has its share of trouble or difficulty.

      • ‘But there is no rose without a thorn and they stand for life's difficulties and tragedies.’
      • ‘Among other things, Stenwick prides itself upon the comeliness of its damsels, but, just as there is no rose without a thorn, so there is no parish whose gallery of feminine pulchritude is utterly flawless.’
      • ‘There is no rose without a thorn, but people getting all hot and bothered is not going to do Sligo any good.’
  • a thorn in someone's side (or flesh)

    • A source of continual annoyance or trouble.

      ‘the pastor has long been a thorn in the side of the regime’
      • ‘I'm going to be a thorn in their side until they deliver the school places, until they deliver the public transport, until they deliver the parks and the playgrounds.’
      • ‘We will continue to fight, to be there as a thorn in their side.’
      • ‘Neighbours consider him a kind person who is ready to help others, while criminals see him as a thorn in their side.’
      • ‘Has there been a government in the last thirty years which hasn't regarded the our journalists as a thorn in its side?’
      • ‘A committed republican, he continued to be a thorn in Cromwell 's side, being elected to the protector's parliaments of 1654 and 1656, but prevented from taking his seat.’
      • ‘I was a thorn in their side because I wouldn't go along with what they wanted to do.’
      • ‘A feisty nuisance of a forward, he was a thorn in their side throughout.’
      • ‘We will continue to be a thorn in his side, keeping a close eye on him and interfering with his criminal activities.’
      • ‘His uncompromising attitude continually made him a thorn in the Establishment 's side.’
      • ‘He's still there of course, and will no doubt continue to be a thorn in our side, but the main danger now seems to be past.’
      annoyance, irritant, irritation, source of irritation, source of vexation, source of annoyance, pinprick, pest, bother, trial, torment, plague, inconvenience, nuisance, menace
      View synonyms


Old English, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch doorn and German Dorn.




Main definitions of thorn in US English:

: thorn1Thorn2


proper noun