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[prik-lee] /ˈprɪk li/
adjective, pricklier, prickliest.
full of or armed with prickles.
full of troublesome points:
a prickly problem.
prickling; smarting:
a prickly sensation.
Origin of prickly
First recorded in 1570-80; prickle + -y1
Related forms
prickliness, noun
unprickly, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for prickly
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The hair was wet and matted and prickly leaves were stuck in it.

    Pee-wee Harris Percy Keese Fitzhugh
  • It had no gate but a gap in the fence, and no fence but a hedge of the prickly pear and the aloe.

    The Scapegoat Hall Caine
  • The prickly threads are quite characteristic; the spinules are 3–5 mic.

  • The very sound of those words gives me a sort of prickly feeling.

    Gigolo Edna Ferber
  • This is the region where the cacao-tree and prickly sarsaparilla grow.

    The Western World W.H.G. Kingston
British Dictionary definitions for prickly


adjective -lier, -liest
having or covered with prickles
stinging or tingling
bad-tempered or irritable
full of difficulties; knotty: a prickly problem
Derived Forms
prickliness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for prickly

1570s, "spiny, armed with prickles" (originally of holly leaves), from prickle (n.) + -y (2). Figurative sense of "irritable" first recorded 1862. Prickly heat is from 1736, so called for the sensation; prickly pear is from 1760 (earlier prickle pear, 1610s). Related: Prickliness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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