the act of a person or thing that pricks.
a prickly or smarting sensation.

Origin of pricking

before 1000; Middle English; Old English pricung; see prick, -ing1




a puncture made by a needle, thorn, or the like.
a sharp point; prickle.
the act of pricking: the prick of a needle.
the state or sensation of being pricked.
a sharp pain caused by or as if by being pricked; twinge.
the pointed end of a prickspur.
Slang: Vulgar.
  1. penis.
  2. an obnoxious or contemptible person.
Archaic. a goad for oxen.
Obsolete. a small or minute mark, a dot, or a point.
Obsolete. any pointed instrument or weapon.

verb (used with object)

to pierce with a sharp point; puncture.
to affect with sharp pain, as from piercing.
to cause sharp mental pain to; sting, as with remorse, anger, etc.: His conscience pricked him.
to urge on with or as if with a goad or spur: My duty pricks me on.
to mark (a surface) with pricks or dots in tracing something.
to mark or trace (something) on a surface by pricks or dots.
to cause to stand erect or point upward (usually followed by up): The dog pricked his ears at the sound of the bell.
  1. to lame (a horse) by driving a nail improperly into its hoof.
  2. to nick: to prick a horse's tail.
to measure (distance, the size of an area, etc.) on a chart with dividers (usually followed by off).
Horticulture. to transplant (a seedling) into a container that provides more room for growth (usually followed by out or off).

verb (used without object)

to perform the action of piercing or puncturing something.
to have a sensation of being pricked.
to spur or urge a horse on; ride rapidly.
to rise erect or point upward, as the ears of an animal (usually followed by up).


    kick against the pricks, to resist incontestable facts or authority; protest uselessly: In appealing the case again, you will just be kicking against the pricks.
    prick up one's ears, to become very alert; listen attentively: The reporter pricked up his ears at the prospect of a scoop.

Origin of prick

before 1000; (noun) Middle English prike; Old English prica, price dot, point; (v.) Middle English priken, Old English prician; cognate with Dutch, Low German prik point
Related formsprick·er, nounprick·ing·ly, adverbun·pricked, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pricking

Contemporary Examples of pricking

Historical Examples of pricking

British Dictionary definitions for pricking


verb (mainly tr)

  1. to make (a small hole) in (something) by piercing lightly with a sharp point
  2. to wound in this manner
(intr) to cause or have a piercing or stinging sensation
to cause to feel a sharp emotional painknowledge of such poverty pricked his conscience
to puncture or pierce
to mark, delineate, or outline by dots or punctures
(also intr usually foll by up) to rise or raise erect; pointthe dog pricked his ears up at his master's call
(usually foll by out or off) to transplant (seedlings) into a larger container
(often foll by off) nautical to measure or trace (a course, distance, etc) on a chart with dividers
archaic to rouse or impel; urge on
(intr) archaic to ride fast on horseback; spur a horse on
prick up one's ears to start to listen attentively; become interested


the act of pricking or the condition or sensation of being pricked
a mark made by a sharp point; puncture
a sharp emotional pain resembling the physical pain caused by being prickeda prick of conscience
a taboo slang word for penis
slang, derogatory an obnoxious or despicable man
an instrument or weapon with a sharp point, such as a thorn, goad, bee sting, etc
the footprint or track of an animal, esp a hare
obsolete a small mark caused by pricking a surface; dot; point
kick against the pricks to hurt oneself by struggling against something in vain

Word Origin for prick

Old English prica point, puncture; related to Dutch prik, Icelandic prik short stick, Swedish prick point, stick
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 pricking



Middle English prikke, from Old English prica (n.) "point, puncture; particle, small portion of space or time," common West Germanic (cf. Low German prik "point," Middle Dutch prick, Dutch prik, Swedish prick "point, dot"). Meaning "pointed weapon, dagger" is first attested 1550s.

Earliest recorded use for "penis" is 1590s (Shakespeare puns upon it). My prick was used 16c.-17c. as a term of endearment by "immodest maids" for their boyfriends. As a term of abuse, it is attested by 1929. Prick-teaser attested from 1958. To kick against the pricks (Acts ix:5, first in the translation of 1382) is probably from sense of "a goad for oxen" (mid-14c.).



Old English prician "to prick, pierce, prick out, sting," from West Germanic *prikojanan (cf. Low German pricken, Dutch prikken "to prick"); Danish prikke "to mark with dots," Swedish pricka "to point, prick, mark with dots" probably are from Low German. Related: Pricked; pricking. To prick up one's ears is 1580s, originally of animals with pointed ears (prycke-eared, of foxes, is from 1520s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper