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From Middle English preye, prei, preyȝe, borrowed from Anglo-Norman and Old French preie, one of the variants of proie, from Latin praeda. Compare predator.



prey (countable and uncountable, plural preys)

  1. (archaic) Anything, such as goods, etc., taken or got by violence; something taken by force from an enemy in war
    Synonyms: spoil, booty, plunder
  2. That which is or may be seized by animals or birds to be devoured
  3. A person or thing given up as a victim.
    • 1899 March, Joseph Conrad, “The Heart of Darkness”, in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, volume CLXV, number MI, New York, N.Y.: The Leonard Scott Publishing Company, [], →OCLC, part II:
      [The helmsman] steered with no end of a swagger while you were by; but if he lost sight of you, he became instantly the prey of an abject funk []
    • 2020 November 18, Howard Johnston, “The missing 'Lincs' and the sole survivor”, in Rail, page 58:
      Being so inflexible, the railway was easy prey to road competition, and the arrival of unregulated lorry transport from farm fields to town centres quickly captured all locally generated business.
  4. A living thing that is eaten by another living thing.
    The rabbit was eaten by the coyote, so the rabbit is the coyote's prey.
  5. (archaic) The act of devouring other creatures; ravage.
  6. The victim of a disease.

Derived terms[edit]



prey (third-person singular simple present preys, present participle preying, simple past and past participle preyed)

  1. (intransitive) To act as a predator.
    • 2001, Karen Harden McCracken, The Life History of a Texas Birdwatcher, page 278:
      The ridge had been a haven for birds and small earth creatures, creeping, crawling, and hopping in a little world of balanced ecology where wild things preyed and were preyed upon []

Related terms[edit]