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Etymology 1[edit]

First attested early 1400s as various Middle English forms prayne, prane, praune, and prawne, which present no clear cognates in languages other than English. The forms suggest a hypothetical Old English form *prægn, where *æg would have evolved into Middle English *ay, but it is unclear if the word is of Germanic origin, from another European language, or loaned from a substrate. In the Isle of Wight, a word prankle ("prawn") is recorded[1] and thought to be related.[2] Century, following Skeat, suggested transposition of an unrecorded Old French *parne, *perne related to Spanish perna (a flat shellfish), Old Italian perna and diminutive pernochie, parnocchie, glossed as "shrimps or prawne, fishes" by John Florio,[3] but the OED considers Florio's entry incorrect and the suggested connection semantically and phonologically implausible.[2]

(woman with toned body but unattractive face): From the idea of discarding the head of a prawn before eating it.



prawn (countable and uncountable, plural prawn or prawns)

  1. A crustacean of the suborder Dendrobranchiata.
  2. (Commonwealth) A crustacean, sometimes confused with shrimp.
  3. (Australia, colloquial, derogatory) Synonym of butterface: A woman with an attractive body but an unattractive face.
    She's a prawn!
  4. (Australia, slang) A fool, an idiot.
    • 1999 August 2, Les Brown, “This old "almah" controversy”, in alt.religion.christian[1] (Usenet):
      This is utter dribble. I've not read much worse than this in a long time - and he admits he doesn't know - "or so I am told". Get real, you prawn.
    • 2001 February 1, Ned Latham, “Lovesick Puppy Poetry - Volume 1”, in aus.culture.true-blue[2] (Usenet):
      He didn't say he was accused of that, prawn.
Derived terms[edit]


prawn (third-person singular simple present prawns, present participle prawning, simple past and past participle prawned)

  1. (intransitive) To fish for prawns.

Etymology 2[edit]

Alternative spelling of pron (pronounced identically with cot-caught merger), which in turn is a corrupted spelling of porn.


prawn (plural prawns)

  1. Alternative form of porn.


  • Oxford English Dictionary, 1884–1928, and First Supplement, 1933.
  • Århammar, Nils (1986): Aspects of Language: Geolinguistics
  1. ^ Joseph Wright, editor (1903), “PRANKLE”, in The English Dialect Dictionary: [], volumes IV (M–Q), London: Henry Frowde, [], publisher to the English Dialect Society, []; New York, N.Y.: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, →OCLC.
  2. 2.0 2.1 OUPblog
  3. ^ prawn”, in The Century Dictionary [], New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911, →OCLC.