[ preen ]
See synonyms for preen on
verb (used with object)
  1. (of animals, especially birds) to trim or dress (feathers, fur, etc.) with the beak or tongue: The peacock preened itself on the lawn.

  2. to dress (oneself) carefully or smartly; primp: The king preened himself in his elaborate ceremonial robes.

  1. to pride (oneself) on an achievement, personal quality, etc.: He preened himself on having graduated with honors.

verb (used without object)
  1. to make oneself appear striking or smart in dress or appearance: No amount of careful preening will compensate for poor posture.

  2. to be exultant or proud.

Origin of preen

1480–90; late Middle English prene, variant of Middle English prunen, proynen (see prune3), perhaps by association with prenen, to stab, pierce (v. use, now dial., of prenepreen2), from the pricking action of a bird's beak in preening

Other words from preen

  • preen·er, noun
  • un·preened, adjective

Other definitions for preen (2 of 2)

[ preen ]

nounChiefly British Dialect.
  1. a pin or brooch.

Origin of preen

before 1000; Middle English prene,Old English prēon a pin; cognate with Old Norse prjōnn pin; akin to Dutch priem,German Pfreim awl Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use preen in a sentence

  • She talked to him, preened herself in his gaze, and maddened him with a manner of deadly roguishness.

    Bunker Bean | Harry Leon Wilson
  • The guineas which he had distributed amongst the crew caused him to be saluted constantly, a fact on which he preened himself.

    The Great Airship. | F. S. Brereton

British Dictionary definitions for preen (1 of 2)


/ (priːn) /

  1. (of birds) to maintain (feathers) in a healthy condition by arrangement, cleaning, and other contact with the bill

  2. to dress or array (oneself) carefully; primp

  1. (usually foll by on) to pride or congratulate (oneself)

Origin of preen

C14 preinen, probably from prunen to prune ³, influenced by prenen to prick, pin (see preen ²); suggestive of the pricking movement of the bird's beak

Derived forms of preen

  • preener, noun

British Dictionary definitions for preen (2 of 2)


/ (priːn) /

  1. Scot a pin, esp a decorative one

Origin of preen

Old English prēon a pin; related to Middle High German pfrieme awl, Dutch priem bodkin

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