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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, as goods, etc., taken or got by violence; anything 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; hence, a person given up as a victim.
    • (Can we date this quote by Dryden and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      Already sees herself the monster's prey.
    • 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 1042815524, 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 []
  3. A living thing that is eaten by another living thing.
    • 1611, King James Version, Job iv. ii
      The old lion perisheth for lack of prey.
    • 2013 May-June, William E. Conner, “An Acoustic Arms Race”, in American Scientist, volume 101, number 3, page 206-7:
      Nonetheless, some insect prey take advantage of clutter by hiding in it. Earless ghost swift moths become “invisible” to echolocating bats by forming mating clusters close (less than half a meter) above vegetation and effectively blending into the clutter of echoes that the bat receives from the leaves and stems around them.
    The rabbit was eaten by the coyote, so the rabbit is the coyote's prey.
  4. The act of devouring other creatures; ravage.
  5. The victim of a disease.



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]