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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English prik, prikke, from Old English prica, pricu ‎(a sharp point, minute mark, spot, dot, small portion, prick), from Proto-Germanic *prikô, *prikō ‎(a prick, point), of uncertain origin, perhaps from Proto-Indo-European *breyǵ- ‎(to scrape, scratch, rub, prickle, chap). Cognate with West Frisian prik ‎(small hole), Dutch prik ‎(point, small stick), Danish prik ‎(dot), Icelandic prik ‎(dot, small stick). Pejorative context came from prickers, or witch-hunters.


prick ‎(plural pricks)

  1. A small hole or perforation, caused by piercing. [from 10th c.]
  2. An indentation or small mark made with a pointed object. [from 10th c.]
  3. (obsolete) A dot or other diacritical mark used in writing; a point. [10th-18th c.]
  4. (obsolete) A tiny particle; a small amount of something; a jot. [10th-18th c.]
  5. A small pointed object. [from 10th c.]
    • Shakespeare
      Pins, wooden pricks, nails, sprigs of rosemary.
    • Bible, Acts ix. 5
      It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
  6. The experience or feeling of being pierced or punctured by a small, sharp object. [from 13th c.]
    I felt a sharp prick as the nurse took a sample of blood.
    • A. Tucker
      the pricks of conscience
  7. (slang, vulgar) The penis. [from 16th c.]
  8. (slang, pejorative) Someone (especially a man or boy) who is unpleasant, rude or annoying. [from 16th c.]
  9. (now historical) A small roll of yarn or tobacco. [from 17th c.]
  10. The footprint of a hare.
  11. (obsolete) A point or mark on the dial, noting the hour.
    • Shakespeare
      the prick of noon
  12. (obsolete) The point on a target at which an archer aims; the mark; the pin.
    • Spenser
      they that shooten nearest the prick
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English prikken, from Old English prician, priccan ‎(to prick), from Proto-Germanic *prikōną, *prikjaną ‎(to pierce, prick), of uncertain origin; perhaps from Proto-Indo-European *breyǵ- ‎(to scrape, scratch, rub, prickle, chap). Cognate with dialectal English pritch, Dutch prikken ‎(to prick, sting), Middle High German pfrecken ‎(to prick), Swedish pricka ‎(to dot, prick), and possibly to Lithuanian įbrėžti ‎(to scrape, scratch, carve, inscribe, strike).


prick ‎(third-person singular simple present pricks, present participle pricking, simple past and past participle pricked)

  1. (transitive) To pierce or puncture slightly. [from 11th c.]
    John hardly felt the needle prick his arm when the adept nurse drew blood.
    1. (farriery) To drive a nail into (a horse's foot), so as to cause lameness.
  2. (transitive) To form by piercing or puncturing.
    to prick holes in paper
    to prick a pattern for embroidery
    to prick the notes of a musical composition
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Cowper to this entry?)
  3. (obsolete) To mark or denote by a puncture; to designate by pricking; to choose; to mark.
    • Francis Bacon
      Some who are pricked for sheriffs.
    • Sir Walter Scott
      Let the soldiers for duty be carefully pricked off.
    • Shakespeare
      Those many, then, shall die: their names are pricked.
  4. (transitive, chiefly nautical) To mark the surface of (something) with pricks or dots; especially, to trace a ship’s course on (a chart). [from 16th c.]
  5. (nautical, obsolete) To run a middle seam through the cloth of a sail. (The Universal Dictionary of the English Language, 1896)
  6. To fix by the point; to attach or hang by puncturing.
    to prick a knife into a board
    • Sandys:
      The cooks prick it [a slice] on a prong of iron.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Isaac Newton to this entry?)
  7. (intransitive, dated) To be punctured; to suffer or feel a sharp pain, as by puncture.
    A sore finger pricks.
    • 17th century (probably 1606), William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act IV, scene 1:
      By the pricking of my thumbs, / Something wicked this way comes.
  8. To make sharp; to erect into a point; to raise, as something pointed; said especially of the ears of an animal, such as a horse or dog; and usually followed by up.
    • Dryden
      The courser [] pricks up his ears.
  9. (horticulture) Usually in the form prick out: to plant (seeds or seedlings) in holes made in soil at regular intervals.
    • 2002 July 6, Carol Klein, “Coming up primroses”[1], The Daily Telegraph (Gardening), archived from the original on 15 February 2013:
      Seed should be sown thinly and evenly to enable seedlings to be pricked out without disturbing those that have just emerged. If there is space, seedlings should be pricked out individually, either into small pots or module trays.
    • 2005 October 22, Valerie Bourne, “Self-seeding”[2], The Daily Telegraph (Gardening), archived from the original on 24 November 2013:
      All three germinate well in pots and can be pricked out and potted on with no problems. [] Grass seeds can be collected as the heads begin to break up. Sow them in late spring, prick out small bundles of seedlings into 7.5cm (3in) pots and transplant them in late May.
    • 2015 September 21, Helen Yemm, “How to manage hollyhocks [print version: Hollyhock and elder care, evil weevils, 12 September 2015, page 7]”[3], The Daily Telegraph (Gardening), archived from the original on 25 September 2015:
      Geoff might prefer to "take control": to collect seed and sow it next spring, pricking out a few of the best seedlings, growing them on in pots next summer before planting them out in the autumn.
  10. (transitive) To incite, stimulate, goad. [from 13th c.]
  11. (intransitive, archaic) To urge one's horse on; to ride quickly. [from 14th c.]
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Milton to this entry?)
  12. To affect with sharp pain; to sting, as with remorse.
    • Bible, Acts ii. 37
      Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart.
    • Tennyson
      I was pricked with some reproof.
  13. (transitive) To make acidic or pungent.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Hudibras to this entry?)
  14. (intransitive) To become sharp or acid; to turn sour, as wine.
  15. To aim at a point or mark.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Hawkins to this entry?)
  16. (obsolete) Usually as prick up: to dress; to prink.

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.






  1. exactly, sharp, on the spot
    vi träffas prick klockan sju
    let's meet at seven o'clock sharp
    att skjuta prick
    to shoot for a target


prick c

  1. a dot, small spot
    Sista bokstaven i det svenska alfabetet är "ö", det vill säga ett "o" med två prickar över.
    The last letter in the Swedish alphabet is "ö", that is, an "o" with two dots over it.
  2. a remark, a stain (in a record of good behaviour)
    Han har haft körkort i 40 år och kört utan prickar
    He's had a driver's license for 40 years and received no tickets
  3. a guy, person; especially about a particularly nice or funny one
    Det var en riktigt trevlig prick, det där.
    That was a really nice guy, that.


Usage notes[edit]

In the sense of "person", it is mainly used in conjunction with the adjectives rolig (funny) or trevlig (nice).

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]