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[sting] /stɪŋ/
verb (used with object), stung or (Obsolete) stang; stung; stinging.
to prick or wound with a sharp-pointed, often venom-bearing organ.
to affect painfully or irritatingly as a result of contact, as certain plants do:
to be stung by nettles.
to cause to smart or to cause a sharp pain:
The blowing sand stung his eyes.
to cause mental or moral anguish:
to be stung with remorse.
to goad or drive, as by sharp irritation.
Slang. to cheat or take advantage of, especially to overcharge; soak.
verb (used without object), stung or (Obsolete) stang; stung; stinging.
to use, have, or wound with a sting, as bees.
to cause a sharp, smarting pain, as some plants, an acrid liquid or gas, or a slap or hit.
to cause acute mental pain or irritation, as annoying thoughts or one's conscience:
The memory of that insult still stings.
to feel acute mental pain or irritation:
He was stinging from the blow to his pride.
to feel a smarting pain, as from a blow or the sting of an insect.
an act or an instance of stinging.
a wound, pain, or smart caused by stinging.
any sharp physical or mental wound, hurt, or pain.
anything or an element in anything that wounds, pains, or irritates:
to feel the sting of defeat; Death, where is thy sting?
capacity to wound or pain:
Satire has a sting.
a sharp stimulus or incitement:
driven by the sting of jealousy; the sting of ambition.
Botany. a glandular hair on certain plants, as nettles, that emits an irritating fluid.
Zoology. any of various sharp-pointed, often venom-bearing organs of insects and other animals capable of inflicting painful or dangerous wounds.
  1. confidence game.
  2. an ostensibly illegal operation, as the buying of stolen goods or the bribing of public officials, used by undercover investigators to collect evidence of wrongdoing.
Origin of sting
before 900; (v.) Middle English stingen, Old English stingan to pierce; cognate with Old Norse stinga to pierce, Gothic -stangan (in usstangan to pull out); (noun) Middle English sting(e), Old English: act of stinging, derivative of the v.
Related forms
stingingly, adverb
stingless, adjective
outsting, verb (used with object), outstung, outstinging.
resting, verb, restung, restinging.
unstinging, adjective
unstingingly, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for sting
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • But this time there was a sting, of the sharpest, in the words themselves.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • It was the insult more than the pain; and from her—there was the sting of it.

  • He has through His death taken from death his sting, so that I have no cause to fear him more.

  • She met his gaze with a tenderness so great that the words lost all their sting.

    Tiverton Tales Alice Brown
  • She died of the sting, and was lost to him in the Underworld.

    Old Greek Folk Stories Told Anew Josephine Preston Peabody
British Dictionary definitions for sting


verb stings, stinging, stung
(of certain animals and plants) to inflict a wound on (an organism) by the injection of poison
to feel or cause to feel a sharp mental or physical pain
(transitive) to goad or incite (esp in the phrase sting into action)
(transitive) (informal) to cheat, esp by overcharging
a skin wound caused by the poison injected by certain insects or plants
pain caused by or as if by the sting of a plant or animal
a mental pain or pang: a sting of conscience
a sharp pointed organ, such as the ovipositor of a wasp, by which poison can be injected into the prey
the ability to sting: a sharp sting in his criticism
something as painful or swift of action as a sting: the sting of death
a sharp stimulus or incitement
(botany) another name for stinging hair
(slang) a swindle or fraud
(slang) a trap set up by the police to entice a person to commit a crime and thereby produce evidence
sting in the tail, an unexpected and unpleasant ending
Derived Forms
stinging, adjective
stingingly, adverb
stingingness, noun
Word Origin
Old English stingan; related to Old Norse stinga to pierce, Gothic usstangan to pluck out, Greek stakhus ear of corn
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 sting

Old English stingan "to prick with a small point" (of weapons, insects, plants, etc.), from Proto-Germanic *stenganan (cf. Old Norse stinga, Old High German stungen "to prick," Gothic us-stagg "to prick out," Old High German stanga, German stange "pole, perch," German stengel "stalk, stem"), from PIE *stengh-, nasalized form of root *stegh- "to prick, sting" (cf. Old English stagga "stag," Greek stokhos "pointed stake"). Specialized to insects late 15c. Slang meaning "to cheat, swindle" is from 1812.


Old English stincg, steng "act of stinging, stinging pain," from the root of sting (v.). Meaning "carefully planned theft or robbery" is attested from 1930; sense of "police undercover entrapment" first attested 1975.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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sting in Medicine

sting (stĭng)
v. stung (stŭng), sting·ing, stings

  1. To pierce or wound painfully with or as if with a sharp-pointed structure or organ, as that of certain insects.

  2. To introduce venom by stinging.

  3. To cause to feel a sharp smarting pain by or as if by pricking with a sharp point.

  1. The act of stinging.

  2. The wound or pain caused by or as if by stinging.

  3. The venom apparatus of a stinging organism.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for sting



A tricking or entrapment, either in a confidence scheme or as part of a law-enforcement operation: have used sting to describe undercover operations that use a bogus business operation as a front/ Let's contrast Abscam with traditional law-enforcement stings (1975+)


  1. To cheat; swindle; defraud; scam (1812+)
  2. To overcharge; stick: He got stung at the corner market (1927+)
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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Idioms and Phrases with sting
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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