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verb (used without object), pried, pry·ing.
  1. to inquire impertinently or unnecessarily into something: to pry into the personal affairs of others.
  2. to look closely or curiously; peer; peep.
noun, plural pries.
  1. an impertinently inquisitive person.
  2. an act of prying.

Origin of pry1

1275–1325; Middle English pryen, prien < ?


verb (used with object), pried, pry·ing.
  1. to move, raise, or open by leverage.
  2. to get, separate, or ferret out with difficulty: to pry a secret out of someone; We finally pried them away from the TV.
noun, plural pries.
  1. a tool, as a crowbar, for raising, moving, or opening something by leverage.
  2. the leverage exerted.

Origin of pry2

1800–10; back formation from prize3, taken as a plural noun or 3rd person singular verb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for pry

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • "Just held him up to pry into his private affairs," she put it bluntly to herself.

    Good Indian

    B. M. Bower

  • (Aloud) I don't mean, my good girl, to pry into your family affairs.

  • Young people are entitled to their own privacy; I don't want to pry.

    Alice Adams

    Booth Tarkington

  • As to Mrs. Betts's former history, no one had the smallest right to pry into it.

    The Coryston Family

    Mrs. Humphry Ward

  • It was one thing to pry into a man's secret; another, to help him escape from it!

    Salted With Fire

    George MacDonald

British Dictionary definitions for pry


verb pries, prying or pried
  1. (intr often foll by into) to make an impertinent or uninvited inquiry (about a private matter, topic, etc)
noun plural pries
  1. the act of prying
  2. a person who pries

Word Origin

C14: of unknown origin


verb pries, prying or pried
  1. to force open by levering
  2. US and Canadian to extract or obtain with difficultythey had to pry the news out of him
Equivalent term (in Britain and other countries): prise

Word Origin

C14: 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

Word Origin and History for pry


"look inquisitively," c.1300, from prien "to peer in," of unknown origin, perhaps related to late Old English bepriwan "to wink." Related: Pried; prying. As a noun, "act of prying," from 1750; meaning "inquisitive person" is from 1845.


"raise by force," 1823, from a noun meaning "instrument for prying, crowbar;" alteration of prize (as though it were a plural) in obsolete sense of "lever" (c.1300), from Old French prise "a taking hold, grasp" (see prize (n.2)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper