[ bris-uhl ]
See synonyms for: bristlebristledbristlesbristling on

  1. one of the short, stiff, coarse hairs of certain animals, especially hogs, used extensively in making brushes.

  2. anything resembling these hairs.

verb (used without object),bris·tled, bris·tling.
  1. to stand or rise stiffly, like bristles.

  2. to erect the bristles, as an irritated animal (often followed by up): The hog bristled up.

  1. to become rigid with anger or irritation: The man bristled when I asked him to move.

  2. to be thickly set or filled with something suggestive of bristles: The plain bristled with bayonets. The project bristled with difficulties.

  3. to be visibly roused or stirred (usually followed by up).

verb (used with object),bris·tled, bris·tling.
  1. to erect like bristles: The rooster bristled his crest.

  2. to furnish with a bristle or bristles.

  1. to make bristly.

Origin of bristle

before 1000; Middle English bristel, equivalent to brist (Old English byrst bristle, cognate with German Borste,Old Norse burst) + -el diminutive suffix

Other words from bristle

  • bris·tle·less, adjective
  • bris·tle·like, adjective
  • non·bris·tled, adjective
  • un·bris·tled, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use bristle in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for bristle


/ (ˈbrɪsəl) /

  1. any short stiff hair of an animal or plant

  2. something resembling these hair: toothbrush bristle

  1. (when intr , often foll by up) to stand up or cause to stand up like bristles: the angry cat's fur bristled

  2. (intr sometimes foll by up) to show anger, indignation, etc: she bristled at the suggestion

  1. (intr) to be thickly covered or set: the target bristled with arrows

  2. (intr) to be in a state of agitation or movement: the office was bristling with activity

  3. (tr) to provide with a bristle or bristles

Origin of bristle

C13 bristil, brustel, from earlier brust, from Old English byrst; related to Old Norse burst, Old High German borst

Derived forms of bristle

  • bristly, adjective

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