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  • IPA(key): /pɹɪk/, [pʰɹ̠̊ɪk]
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪk

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-West Germanic *prikō, *priku, 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), West Frisian prikke (penis), Dutch prik (point, small stick", also "penis), Danish prik (dot), Icelandic prik (dot, small stick).


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.]
  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.
  7. A feeling of remorse.
    • 1768–1777, Abraham Tucker, The Light of Nature Pursued
      the pricks of conscience
  8. (slang, vulgar) The penis. [from 16th c.]
  9. (slang, derogatory) Someone (especially a man or boy) who is unpleasant, rude or annoying. [from 16th c.]
  10. (now historical) A small roll of yarn or tobacco. [from 17th c.]
  11. The footprint of a hare.
  12. (obsolete) A point or mark on the dial, noting the hour.
  13. (obsolete) The point on a target at which an archer aims; the mark; the pin.
    • 1579, Immeritô [pseudonym; Edmund Spenser], “September. Aegloga Nona.”, in The Shepheardes Calender: [], London: [] Hugh Singleton, [], →OCLC; reprinted as H[einrich] Oskar Sommer, editor, The Shepheardes Calender [], London: John C. Nimmo, [], 1890, →OCLC:
      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, hunting) To shoot without killing.
      • 1871, Robert Smith Surtees, Jorrocks's jaunts and jollities, page 48:
        They had shot at old Tom, the hare, too, but he is still alive; at least I pricked him yesterday morn across the path into the turnip field.
  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
    • 1782, William Cowper, “On the Receipt of my Mother’s Picture out of Norfolk”, in Poems, London: [] J[oseph] Johnson, [], →OCLC:
      When, playing with thy vestute's tissued flowers,
      The violet, the pink, and jessamine,
      I pricked them into paper with a pit
  3. (obsolete) To mark or denote by a puncture; to designate by pricking; to choose; to mark.
  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.
  6. To fix by the point; to attach or hang by puncturing.
  7. (intransitive, dated) To be punctured; to suffer or feel a sharp pain, as by puncture.
    A sore finger pricks.
  8. (transitive, intransitive) To make or become 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.
    The dog's ears pricked up at the sound of a whistle.
    • 1697, Virgil, “The Second Book of the Georgics”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC:
      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”, in The Daily Telegraph (Gardening)[1], 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”, in The Daily Telegraph (Gardening)[2], 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]”, in The Daily Telegraph (Gardening)[3], 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.]
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, “Book III, Canto I”, in The Faerie Queene. [], London: [] [John Wolfe] for William Ponsonbie, →OCLC:
      At last, as through an open plaine they yode,
      They spide a knight that towards them pricked fayre [...].
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book II”, in Paradise Lost. [], London: [] [Samuel Simmons], [], →OCLC; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, →OCLC, lines 527-538:
      Part, on the plain or in the air sublime, / Upon the wing or in swift race contend, / As at the Olympian games or Pythian fields; / Part curb their fiery steed, or shun the goal / With rapid wheel, or fronted brigads form : / As when, to warn proud cities, war appears / Waged in the trouble sky, and armies rush / To battle in the clouds; before each van / Prick forth the aery knights, and couch their spears / Till thickest legions close; with feats of arms / From either end of heaven the welkin burns.
    • 1874–1881, Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque and Other Papers, London: C[harles] Kegan Paul & Co., [], published 1881, →OCLC:
      Indeed, it is a memorable subject for consideration, with what unconcern and gaiety mankind pricks on along the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
  12. To affect with sharp pain; to sting, as with remorse.
  13. (transitive) To make acidic or pungent.
  14. (intransitive) To become sharp or acid; to turn sour, as wine.
  15. To aim at a point or mark.
  16. (obsolete, usually as prick up) to dress or adorn; to prink.
Derived terms[edit]

Further reading[edit]




From Middle Low German pricken, from Old Saxon *prikkian, from the verb Proto-Germanic *prikjaną (to prick).




  1. on the dot, exactly, sharp
    vi träffas prick klockan sju
    we'll meet at seven o'clock sharp
  2. with careful aim (in order to hit something)
    att skjuta prick
    to shoot at a mark / snipe
    De sköt prick på en melon
    They used a melon as a target ("They shot with careful aim at a melon")


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.
    att skjuta prickto shoot for a target
  2. a mark, a stain (in a record of good behavior)
    Han har haft körkort i 40 år och kört utan prickar
    He's had a driver's license for 40 years and has received zero driving infractions
  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, there.
  4. a floating seamark in the form of a painted pole, possibly with cones, lights and reflectors
    Ser du om pricken därborta är en nord eller en ost?
    Can you see whether the mark over there is a north mark or an east mark?

Usage notes[edit]

(guy, person): Mainly used in conjunction with the adjectives rolig (funny) or trevlig (nice), but also ruskig (eerie, scary).


Declension of prick 
Singular Plural
Indefinite Definite Indefinite Definite
Nominative prick pricken prickar prickarna
Genitive pricks prickens prickars prickarnas

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]

See also[edit]