adjective, prick·li·er, prick·li·est.

full of or armed with prickles.
full of troublesome points: a prickly problem.
prickling; smarting: a prickly sensation.

Nearby words

  1. prickingly,
  2. prickle,
  3. prickle cell,
  4. prickle cell layer,
  5. prickleback,
  6. prickly ash,
  7. prickly heat,
  8. prickly pear,
  9. prickly poppy,
  10. prickspur

Origin of prickly

First recorded in 1570–80; prickle + -y1

Related formsprick·li·ness, nounun·prick·ly, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for prickly

British Dictionary definitions for prickly


adjective -lier or -liest

having or covered with prickles
stinging or tingling
bad-tempered or irritable
full of difficulties; knottya prickly problem
Derived Formsprickliness, 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

Word Origin and History for prickly



1570s, "spiny, armed with prickles" (originally of holly leaves), from prickle (n.) + -y (2). Figurative sense of "irritable" first recorded 1862. Prickly heat is from 1736, so called for the sensation; prickly pear is from 1760 (earlier prickle pear, 1610s). Related: Prickliness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper