- (of animals, especially birds) to trim or dress (feathers, fur, etc.) with the beak or tongue: The peacock preened itself on the lawn.
- to dress (oneself) carefully or smartly; primp: The king preened himself in his elaborate ceremonial robes.
- to pride (oneself) on an achievement, personal quality, etc.: He preened himself on having been graduated with honors.
- to make oneself appear striking or smart in dress or appearance: No amount of careful preening will compensate for poor posture.
- to be exultant or proud.
Origin of preen1
Examples from the Web for preening
The book, surprisingly, is not the self-aggrandizing vanity trip of a preening pop star one would expect.Portrait of the Austin Mahone as a Teen Idol
December 10, 2014
Preening, arrogant, vindictive, and inexorable; awash with cash; corrupt; in bed with corporate America and big finance.Meet The Democrats’ Secret Savior Against Cuomo Corporatism
September 14, 2014
Astonishingly, no one falls prey to the posturing or preening that haunts most Western conferences.Nurturing a Patriotic Opposition
December 11, 2012
I looked up to see where my bird of paradise had landed—presumably in a soft cloud in the rafters, preening her feathers.From Bullets to Ballet
October 16, 2010
And of course doctors, brigades of doctors have entered the fray, flexing and preening for the ubiquitous television cameras.All These Useless Doctors
February 1, 2010
The parrot sat, preening her plumage, on Long John's shoulder.Treasure Island
Robert Louis Stevenson
Describe the preening of the feathers and explain the meaning of it.Ontario Teachers' Manuals: Nature Study
Ontario Ministry of Education
There was a great variety of them, feeding and preening and chirping in the vines.Winter
Dallas Lore Sharp
And when the rain is over, what a shaking and preening of feathers there is!Birds of the Plains
Minga stood on audacious toes; she bowed like a preening butterfly.Under the Law
Edwina Stanton Babcock
- (of birds) to maintain (feathers) in a healthy condition by arrangement, cleaning, and other contact with the bill
- to dress or array (oneself) carefully; primp
- (usually foll by on) to pride or congratulate (oneself)
- Scot a pin, esp a decorative one
Word Origin and History for preening
"to trim, to dress up," late 14c., perhaps a variation of Middle English proynen, proinen "trim the feather with the beak" (see prune (v.)); or perhaps from Old French poroindre "anoint before," and Old French proignier "round off, prune." Middle English prene (from Old English preon, a general Germanic word) meant "to pin," and probably influenced the form of this word. Watkins, however, connects it with Latin unguere "to smear, anoint."
Because of the popularity of falconry, bird activities formerly were more closely observed and words for them were more precise in English than today.
Youre hawke proynith and not pikith and she prenyth not bot whan she begynnyth at hir leggys, and fetcheth moystour like oyle at hir taill. ["Book of St. Albans," 1486]