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Plunder or pillage; also, make a profit at someone else's expense, victimize. For example, Vikings preyed on the coastal towns of England, or The rich have been preying on the poor for centuries. [Late 1500s]
Hunt, especially in order to eat, as in Their cat preys on all the rodents in the neighborhood. [c. 1600]
Exert a baneful or injurious effect, as in Guilt preyed on his mind. [c. 1700]
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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.