verb (used without object)

Origin of prey

1200–50; Middle English preye < Old French < Latin praeda booty, prey; akin to prehendere to grasp, seize (see prehension)
Related formsprey·er, nounun·prey·ing, adjective
Can be confusedpray prayer prey

Synonyms for prey Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for prey

Contemporary Examples of prey

Historical Examples of prey

  • The voice, too, when he spoke, was as deep and as fierce as the growl of a beast of prey.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • They were not our prey, for they would not rise at a fly, and we knew it.

    American Notes

    Rudyard Kipling

  • And yet, we all agree in one object of our being—all prey on each other!

    Calderon The Courtier

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

  • In less than a year after his return to Silsea, he died—a prey to remorse.

    Theresa Marchmont

    Mrs Charles Gore

  • Then would the voice especially claim us for its prey, and rend us all to pieces.

British Dictionary definitions for prey



an animal hunted or captured by another for food
a person or thing that becomes the victim of a hostile person, influence, etc
beast of prey an animal that preys on others for food
bird of prey a bird that preys on others for food
an archaic word for booty 1

verb (intr; often foll by on or upon)

to hunt or seize food by killing other animals
to make a victim (of others), as by profiting at their expense
to exert a depressing or obsessive effect (on the mind, spirits, etc); weigh heavily (upon)
Derived Formspreyer, noun

Word Origin for prey

C13: from Old French preie, from Latin praeda booty; see predatory
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

Word Origin and History for prey

mid-13c., "animal hunted for food," also "that which is taken in war," from Old French preie "booty, animal taken in the chase" (mid-12c., Modern French proie), from Latin praeda "booty, plunder, game hunted," earlier praeheda, related to prehendere "to grasp, seize" (see prehensile).


c.1300, "to plunder, pillage, ravage," from prey (n.) and in part from Old French preer, earlier preder (c.1040), from Late Latin praedare, from praeda (see prey (n.)). Its sense of "to kill and devour" is attested from mid-14c. Related: Preyed; preying.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper