preen

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English[edit]

Pronunciation[edit]

  • IPA(key): /pɹiːn/
    • (file)
  • Rhymes: -iːn

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English pren, from Old English prēon, from Proto-Germanic *preunaz (compare Icelandic prjónn (pin, knitting-needle), Danish pryne ‘needle, eel-spear’), from Proto-Indo-European *brewn- (protrusion, tip, edge) (compare Lithuanian briaunà ‘edge’, Albanian brez ‘belt, girdle’). Cognate with German Pfriem. The verb is from Middle English prenen, from pren (a preen), akin to German pfriemen.

Alternative forms[edit]

Noun[edit]

preen (plural preens)

  1. A forked tool used by clothiers for dressing cloth.
  2. (dialectal) pin
    • 1902, John Buchan, The Outgoing of the Tide
      She never seemed to want for siller; the house was as bright as a new preen, the yaird better delved than the manse garden; []
  3. (dialectal) bodkin; brooch

Verb[edit]

preen (third-person singular simple present preens, present participle preening, simple past and past participle preened)

  1. (transitive) To pin; fasten.

Etymology 2[edit]

Variant of prune (by influence of preen above). Attested in Chaucer (c. 1395) in the variants preyneth, prayneth, proyneth, prunyht, pruneth, from Old French proignier (to trim the feathers with the beak).

Verb[edit]

preen (third-person singular simple present preens, present participle preening, simple past and past participle preened)

  1. (of birds, transitive, intransitive) To groom; to trim or dress with the beak, as the feathers.
  2. (of people, intransitive, reflexive) To spend time making oneself attractive and admiring one's appearance, e.g. in front of a mirror.
    Synonyms: primp, smarten up
    • 1922, James Joyce, Ulysses:
      Mr Kernan halted and preened himself before the sloping mirror of Peter Kennedy, hairdresser. Stylish coat, beyond a doubt. Scott of Dawson street. Well worth the half sovereign I gave Neary for it.
  3. (intransitive) To show off, posture, or smarm.
    • 1993, Scott Simmon, The Films of D W Griffith:
      His preening self-satisfaction, chest thrown forward as he settles into a chair in his mansion...
    • 2004, Jude Deveraux, Counterfeit Lady:
      He preened under her compliments.
    • 2012, Mike Lofgren, The Party Is Over:
      The crowning tragedy—or sick joke—is that those who have postured and preened the most ostentatiously about their devotion to the Constitution have been the most indifferent to its destruction.
    • 2016, Jeanne Williams, Daughter of the Sword:
      “Six look like dyin', and five dead,” preened the killer.
  4. (transitive) To flatter.
    • 1989, Graham Holderness, The Taming of the Shrew, page 112:
      In Miller's view the play is expressive of a peculiarly Renaissance vision of the harmonious marriage within the orderly society: 'its spirit derives from Elizabethan Puritanism's view of the household as an orderly place in whichc the marriage is consecrated not in the church but in the orderly procedures of domesticity ; in which obedience is required , not in order to preen the male pride of the father, but to restore order in a fallen world '
    • 1992, Philip H. Ennis, The Seventh Stream: The Emergence of Rocknroll in American Popular Music, page 39:
      New York nurtured and preened the most sophisticated audiences in the nation.
    • 2010, Alexandra Bell, Rising to the Deadline:
      Sorcha, who had quickly learned about the cynicism that's deeply engrained in the newspaper business, wrote up the whole development in the most glowing terms, with phrase after phrase of praise that preened the estate agents and developers into new realms of ecstasy.
  5. (transitive) To comb; to make orderly.
    • 2002, David G. Campbell, The Crystal Desert: Summers in Antarctica:
      My two roommates are engineers who preen the diesels.
    • 2011, Jim Schollmeyer, ‎Ted Leeson, Flies for Western Super Hatches, page 82:
      Preen the deer hair rearward around the hook shank, and take 3 tight thread wraps to secure it.
    • 2019, J.E. Franklin, Crouching at the Door:
      Now Prossiden's finger was brandished, and preened the air in front of Onascam's face with florid implications.
    • 2020, Rohit Pagare, After the Dark, page 124:
      He preened the registers, computer entries but of no avail.
  6. (transitive) To trim up, as trees.
    • 2007, J. P. De Sales, The Coming of the Reichchild, page 162:
      Adjusting his spectacles on the bridge of his nose, he gently preened the bush with his pruners.
    • 2013, Hannah Graham, Beneath the Perfect World:
      He'd imagined he could see the whole world from there, whilst the people below tended to their window boxes and preened the rose bushes, making this idyllic village pretty for the tourists.
    • 2018, J.S. Monroe, The Riot Act:
      I ignored him and looked around, wondering who preened the conical fir trees on each ledge of the building.
  7. (transitive, more generally) To improve the appearance of; groom; prettify.
    • 2011, Brennan Pursell, The Spanish Match, page 26:
      He brushed and preened the marquis, front and back. “Lucky we are, Your Grace, no gashes that I see. But the beard is in a woeful state —”
    • 2011, Dean MacCannell, The Ethics of Sightseeing, page 200:
      Clearly this is not heritage tourism development. Instead it recommends how to preen the city for the uncritical gaze of a kind of tourist who willingly accepts low-grade commercialized leisure.
    • 2015, Walter Jon Williams, The Rift:
      He'd built a lodge and preened the country, and imported or otherwise attracted the game, and then found that no one came.
    • 2020, Carys Jones, The List:
      A piece of human debris, usually plucked up and disposed of by the group of volunteers who pruned and preened the woods on a weekly basis.


Translations[edit]

See also[edit]

Anagrams[edit]


Scots[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Middle English pren, from Old English prēon, from Proto-Germanic *preunaz (pin, knitting needle).

Noun[edit]

preen (plural preens)

  1. metal pin
  2. pine needle

Derived terms[edit]

Verb[edit]

preen (third-person singular simple present preens, present participle preenin, simple past preent, past participle preent)

  1. to pin (fasten with a pin)
  2. to dress oneself up

Spanish[edit]

Verb[edit]

preen

  1. inflection of prear:
    1. third-person plural present subjunctive
    2. third-person plural imperative