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From Middle English pranken (to adorn, arrange one's attire), probably from Middle Dutch pronken, proncken (to flaunt, make a show, arrange one's attire). Cognate with Middle Low German prunken (to flaunt), German prunken (to flaunt), Danish prunke (to make a show, prank). Connected also with German prangen (to make a show, be resplendent), Dutch prangen (to squeeze, press), Danish pragt (pomp, splendor), all from Proto-Germanic *pranganą, *prangijaną, *prag- (to press, squeeze, thring), from Proto-Indo-European *brAngh- (to press, squeeze). Sense of "mischievous act" from earlier verbal sense of "to be crafty or subtle, set in order, adjust". See also prink, prance.



prank (plural pranks)

  1. (obsolete) An evil deed; a malicious trick, an act of cruel deception.
    • 1621, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy, Oxford: Printed by Iohn Lichfield and Iames Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 216894069:, II.4.2.ii:
      Hercules, after all his mad pranks upon his wife and children, was perfectly cured by a purge of hellebor, which an Antieyrian administered unto him.
  2. A practical joke or mischievous trick.
    • Shakespeare
      His pranks have been too broad to bear with.
    • Sir Walter Raleigh
      The harpies [] played their accustomed pranks.
    Pranks may be funny, but remember that some people are aggressive.
    He pulled a gruesome prank on his sister.
    It's just a prank bro, chill!


Derived terms[edit]



prank (third-person singular simple present pranks, present participle pranking, simple past pranked, past participle pranked or (archaic) prankt)

  1. (transitive) To adorn in a showy manner; to dress or equip ostentatiously.
    • Spenser
      In sumptuous tire she joyed herself to prank.
    • 1748, James Thomson, The Castle of Indolence, B:II
      And there a Seaſon atween June and May,
      Half prankt with Spring, with Summer half imbrown'd,
      A liſtleſs Climate made, where, Sooth to ſay,
      No living Wight could work, ne cared even for Play.
    • 1880 Dante Gabriel Rosetti, For Spring, by Sandro Botticelli, lines 2–3
      Flora, wanton-eyed
      For birth, and with all flowrets prankt and pied:
  2. (intransitive) To make ostentatious show.
    • M. Arnold
      White houses prank where once were huts.
  3. (transitive) To perform a practical joke on; to trick.
    • 2007 May 13, Karen Crouse, “Still Invitation Only, but Jets Widen Door for Camp”, in New York Times[1]:
      “If someone’s pranking me,” Rowlands remembered thinking, “they’re going to great lengths to make it work.”
  4. (transitive, slang) To call someone's phone and promptly hang up
    Hey man, prank me when you wanna get picked up.
    I don't have your number in my phone, can you prank me?



(call and promptly hang up): missed call, missed-call


prank (comparative more prank, superlative most prank)

  1. (obsolete) Full of gambols or tricks.

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.