• synonyms


  1. a sharp excrescence on a plant, especially a sharp-pointed aborted branch; spine; prickle.
  2. any of various thorny shrubs or trees, especially the hawthorns belonging to the genus Crataegus, of the rose family.
  3. the wood of any of these trees.
  4. a runic character (þ), borrowed into the Latin alphabet and representing the initial th sounds in thin and they in Old English, or thin in modern Icelandic.
  5. something that wounds, annoys, or causes discomfort.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to prick with a thorn; vex.
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  1. thorn in one's side/flesh, a source of continual irritation or suffering: That child is a thorn in the teacher's side.
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Origin of thorn

before 900; Middle English (noun), Old English; cognate with Dutch doorn, German Dorn, Old Norse thorn, Gothic thaurnus
Related formsthorn·less, adjectivethorn·like, adjectiveun·thorn, verb (used with object)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for thorned

Historical Examples of thorned

  • Flowers had seemed to be had for the picking; now they were all thorned and prickled.

    The Forsyte Saga, Volume III.

    John Galsworthy

  • In these we always find that the thorned holly is spoken of as male, and the Ivy as female.

  • Thus Benjamin thorned his companions with arguments against the prevailing habit of beer-drinking.

    The Printer Boy.

    William M. Thayer

  • They soon found a trail and trotted their horses, horses and men swaying to avoid lianas and thorned branches.

    When the Owl Cries

    Paul Bartlett

  • They had struggled through a thick undergrowth of thorned bushes where the great arms of the firs shut out everything ahead.

British Dictionary definitions for thorned


  1. the German name for Toruń
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  1. a sharp pointed woody extension of a stem or leafCompare prickle (def. 1)
    1. any of various trees or shrubs having thorns, esp the hawthorn
    2. the wood of any of these plants
  2. short for thorn moth
  3. a Germanic character of runic origin Þ used in Old and Modern Icelandic to represent the voiceless dental fricative sound of th, as in thin, bath. Its use in phonetics for the same purpose is now obsoleteSee theta
  4. this same character as used in Old and Middle English as an alternative to edh, but indistinguishable from it in function or soundCompare edh
  5. zoology any of various sharp spiny parts
  6. a source of irritation (esp in the phrases a thorn in one's side or flesh)
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Derived Formsthornless, adjective

Word Origin for thorn

Old English; related to Old High German dorn, Old Norse thorn
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 thorned



Old English þorn "sharp point on a stem or branch," earlier "thorny tree or plant," from Proto-Germanic *thurnuz (cf. Old Saxon thorn, Dutch doorn, Old High German dorn, German Dorn, Old Norse þorn, Gothic þaurnus), from PIE *trnus (cf. Old Church Slavonic trunu "thorn," Sanskrit trnam "blade of grass," Greek ternax "stalk of the cactus," Irish trainin "blade of grass"), from *(s)ter-n- "thorny plant," from root *ster- "stiff."

Figurative sense of "anything which causes pain" is recorded from early 13c. (thorn in the flesh is from II Cor. xii:7). Also an Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic runic letter (þ), named for the word of which it was the initial.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

thorned in Science


  1. A short, hard, pointed part of a stem or branch of a woody plant. Compare spine.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.