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[proul] /praʊl/
verb (used without object)
to rove or go about stealthily, as in search of prey, something to steal, etc.
verb (used with object)
to rove over or through in search of what may be found:
The cat prowled the alleys in search of food.
act of prowling.
on the prowl, in the act of prowling; searching stealthily:
The cat is on the prowl for mice.
Origin of prowl
1350-1400; Middle English prollen < ?
Related forms
prowlingly, adverb
unprowling, adjective
1. roam. See lurk. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for prowling
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It was Del-phin, very gay, walking on all fours, prowling behind her like a wolf.

  • Not for a moment did he doubt what was the quarry of this prowling gendarmerie.

    Scaramouche Rafael Sabatini
  • It was less than three minutes since the prowling brigands had been seen.

  • All of which had nothing to do with why I was prowling around the Ludmilla—or did it?

    One-Shot James Benjamin Blish
  • In prowling around he had unexpectedly come upon the three men.

    Pathfinder Alan Douglas
  • He took to prowling at night, round and round the bleak garden.


    Stephen French Whitman
  • Ryder, who was prowling about, found her there, and fetched her hartshorn.

  • At night he kills the prowling wolf when he comes near to the lodge.

    The Settlers in Canada

    Frederick Marryat
British Dictionary definitions for prowling


when intr, often foll by around or about. to move stealthily around (a place) as if in search of prey or plunder
the act of prowling
on the prowl
  1. moving around stealthily
  2. zealously pursuing members of the opposite sex
Derived Forms
prowler, noun
Word Origin
C14 prollen, of unknown origin
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 prowling

mid-15c., verbal noun from prowl (v.).



late 14c., prollen, "move about in search of something," of unknown origin, with no known cognates. Spelling with -w- is from 1500s (cf. bowl), but pronounced "prôll" till late 18c. Meaning "go stealthily in search of prey" is first recorded 1580s. Related: Prowled; prowling. The noun, in on the prowl, is attested from 1803.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for prowling



To search by running the hands over the person; frisk: prowled me over carefully with his left hand (1914+)

Related Terms

on the prowl

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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