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  1. a person who displays or demands of others pointlessly precise conformity, fussiness about trivialities, or exaggerated propriety, especially in a self-righteous or irritating manner.
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Origin of prig1

First recorded in 1560–70; formerly, coxcomb; perhaps akin to prink
Related formsprig·gish, adjectiveprig·gish·ly, adverbprig·gish·ness, nounun·prig·gish, adjective


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verb (used with object), prigged, prig·ging.
  1. Chiefly British. to steal.
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verb (used without object), prigged, prig·ging.
  1. Scot. and North England. to haggle or argue over price.
  2. British Informal. to beg or entreat; ask a favor.
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  1. Chiefly British. a thief.
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Origin of prig2

First recorded in 1505–15; orig. thieves' cant; origin uncertain
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for prigs

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The Prigs who despise the people are often loaded with lands and crowned.

    Alarms and Discursions

    G. K. Chesterton

  • "But we're all prigs," Gilbert said once in reply to some one who sneered at Roger.

    Changing Winds

    St. John G. Ervine

  • Were we to attempt to do so it would make us prigs and prudes.

    Practical Ethics

    William DeWitt Hyde

  • The Philistines loved him for his world‑wide popularity; the prigs in spite of it!

    The Martian

    George Du Maurier

  • Come along, Spooney,' and the pair of prigs retire superciliously.

    The Book of Snobs

    William Makepeace Thackeray

British Dictionary definitions for prigs


  1. a person who is smugly self-righteous and narrow-minded
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Derived Formspriggery or priggishness, nounpriggish, adjectivepriggishly, adverbpriggism, noun

Word Origin

C18: of unknown origin


verb prigs, prigging or prigged
  1. another word for steal
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  1. another word for thief
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Word Origin

C16: of unknown origin
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 prigs



"precisian in speech or manners," 1753, originally in reference to theological scruples (1704), of unknown origin; earlier appearances of the same word meaning "dandy, fop" (1670s), "thief" (c.1600; in form prigger recorded from 1560s) could be related, as could thieves' cant prig "a tinker" (1560s).

A p[rig] is wise beyond his years in all the things that do not matter. A p. cracks nuts with a steam hammer: that is, calls in the first principles of morality to decide whether he may, or must, do something of as little importance as drinking a glass of beer. On the whole, one may, perhaps, say that all his different characteristics come from the combination, in varying proportions, of three things--the desire to do his duty, the belief that he knows better than other people, & blindness to the difference in value between different things. ["anonymous essay," quoted in Fowler, 1926]

Related: Priggery.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper