adjective, spin·i·er, spin·i·est.

abounding in or having spines; thorny, as a plant.
covered with or having sharp-pointed processes, as an animal.
in the form of a spine; resembling a spine; spinelike.
troublesome or difficult to handle; thorny: a spiny problem.

Origin of spiny

First recorded in 1580–90; spine + -y1
Related formsspin·i·ness, nounnon·spin·y, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for spiny

barbed, pointy, sharp, spiky, spinous, thorny

Examples from the Web for spiny

Contemporary Examples of spiny

Historical Examples of spiny

  • If the coating has spiny hairs, as in the Chestnut and Beechnut, the whole is a bur.

  • They were green and blue and red, and they had spiny rays like starfish on which they danced.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service

  • Its spiny stems and leaves, which cut like razors, make it difficult to approach.

    The Western World

    W.H.G. Kingston

  • The compact soil was covered with wild and spiny vegetation.

    The Dead Command

    Vicente Blasco Ibez

  • A dog snatched at a spiny lower leg and crunched and darted away.

    Nightmare Planet

    Murray Leinster

British Dictionary definitions for spiny


adjective spinier or spiniest

(of animals) having or covered with quills or spines
(of plants) covered with spines; thorny
troublesome to handle; puzzling
shaped like a spine
Derived Formsspininess, 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 spiny

1580s, from spine + -y (2).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper