[ prey ]
See synonyms for: preypreyedpreying on

  1. an animal hunted or seized for food, especially by a carnivorous animal.

  2. a person or thing that is the victim of an enemy, a swindler, a disease, etc: a con man looking for his next prey.

  1. the action or habit of preying: a beast of prey.

  2. Archaic. booty or plunder.

verb (used without object)
  1. to seize and devour prey, as an animal does (usually followed by on or upon): Foxes prey on rabbits.

  2. to make raids or attacks for booty or plunder: The Vikings preyed on coastal settlements.

  1. to exert a harmful or destructive influence: His worries preyed upon his mind.

  2. to victimize another or others (usually followed by on or upon): loan sharks that prey upon poor people.

Idioms about prey

  1. fall prey (to), to be victimized, harmed, or killed: chickens that fell prey to a hawk;fall prey to internet scams.

Origin of prey

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English prei(e), preye, “booty, plunder, prey,” from Old French proie, praie, preie, from Latin praeda; akin to prehendere to grasp, seize; see prehension

Other words for prey

Other words from prey

  • preyer, noun
  • un·prey·ing, adjective

Words that may be confused with prey Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use prey in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for prey


/ (preɪ) /

  1. an animal hunted or captured by another for food

  2. a person or thing that becomes the victim of a hostile person, influence, etc

  1. beast of prey an animal that preys on others for food

  2. bird of prey a bird that preys on others for food

  3. an archaic word for booty 1

verb(intr; often foll by on or upon)
  1. to hunt or seize food by killing other animals

  2. to make a victim (of others), as by profiting at their expense

  1. to exert a depressing or obsessive effect (on the mind, spirits, etc); weigh heavily (upon)

Origin of prey

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

Derived forms of prey

  • preyer, noun

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