[ peers ]
/ pɪərs /
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verb (used with object), pierced, pierc·ing.
verb (used without object), pierced, pierc·ing.
to force or make a way into or through something; penetrate: to pierce to the heart.
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Origin of pierce

1250–1300; Middle English percen<Old French perc(i)er<Vulgar Latin *pertūsiāre, verbal derivative of Latin pertūsus, past participle of pertundere to bore a hole through, perforate, equivalent to per-per- + tundere to strike, beat

synonym study for pierce

1. Pierce, penetrate suggest the action of one object passing through another or making a way through and into another. The terms are used both concretely and figuratively. To pierce is to perforate quickly, as by stabbing; it suggests the use of a sharp, pointed instrument which is impelled by force: to pierce the flesh with a knife; a scream pierces one's ears. Penetrate suggests a slow or difficult movement: No ordinary bullet can penetrate an elephant's hide; to penetrate the depths of one's ignorance.


pierce·a·ble, adjectivepiercer, nounun·pierce·a·ble, adjective

Other definitions for pierce (2 of 2)

[ peers ]
/ pɪərs /

Franklin, 1804–69, 14th president of the U.S. 1853–57.
John Robinson, 1910–2002, U.S. electrical engineer: helped develop communications satellites.
a male given name, form of Peter.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does pierce mean?

To pierce something is to penetrate or puncture it, usually with something sharp, making a hole in the process.

This sense of the word is associated with needles and other thin, sharp objects used to pierce surfaces. To pierce someone’s ear is to make a hole in it with a needle so that an earring can be inserted. This is called a piercing.

The word can be used in the context of someone doing the piercing, as in You will need to pierce the skin with this needle, or in the context of an object piercing something, as in The needle pierced the skin. Things that have been pierced can be described with the adjective pierced, as in pierced ears.  

Things that pierce aren’t always sharp. Sometimes, things pierce by penetrating with force. For example, bullets and artillery shells that are designed to pierce protective coverings and shields are described as armor-piercing.

More broadly, pierce can mean to make a hole, opening, tunnel, or path into or through something, as in The mountain is pierced by a long tunnel.  

These literal senses of pierce are the basis of several figurative senses of the word.

Pierce can mean to see into or through, as if penetrating something with the eye or mind, as in Her stare pierced my soul. 

It can also mean to affect intensely or sharply, as in The wind pierced my face or Your writing needs to pierce the reader’s heart. An insult can pierce you in this way—meaning it can cut you deeply.

Similarly, shrill sounds can be said to pierce your ears, the air, or the stillness, and light can be said to pierce the darkness.

The word piercing can also be used as an adjective to describe things that are intense, penetrating, or sharp in a figurative way, as in a piercing wind, a piercing scream, a piercing stare, or a piercing remark.

Example: This tarp is pretty thick, so to pierce it you’ll have to really stab the stake through it forcefully.

Where does pierce come from?

The first records of the word pierce come from the 1200s. It ultimately comes from the Latin verb pertundere, meaning “to bore a hole through” or “to perforate.”

Pierce can be used in many different contexts, both literally and figuratively, but it’s almost always used to indicate that something has gone through something else. In a literal sense, this usually means that a hole or opening has been made, at least temporarily, such as in the skin or in a piece of fabric. In a figurative sense, this usually means that something has deeply penetrated or intensely affected something else.

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What are some other forms of pierce?

  • pierced (past tense verb, adjective)
  • piercing (continuous tense verb, adjective, noun)

What are some synonyms for pierce?

What are some words that share a root or word element with pierce

What are some words that often get used in discussing pierce?

How is pierce used in real life?

Pierce is very commonly used in both literal and figurative contexts and in all kinds of situations.



Try using pierce!

Which of the following things can be said to pierce?

A. needles
B. knives
C. eyes
D. all of the above

How to use pierce in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for pierce (1 of 2)

/ (pɪəs) /

verb (mainly tr)

Derived forms of pierce

pierceable, adjectivepiercer, noun

Word Origin for pierce

C13 percen, from Old French percer, ultimately from Latin pertundere, from per through + tundere to strike

British Dictionary definitions for pierce (2 of 2)

/ (pɪəs) /

Franklin. 1804–69, US statesman; 14th president of the US (1853–57)
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