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UK 16th century. Of unknown origin. Earlier noun senses ("tinker" and "thief"), as hyponyms of "undesirable person", may have informed later senses ("conceited person").


  • IPA(key): /pɹɪɡ/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪɡ


prig (plural prigs)

  1. (Britain, archaic, thieves' cant) A tinker.
    • 1566, Harman, Thomas, A Caveat or Warning for Common Cursitors:
      These droncken Tynckers, called also Prygges.
  2. (Britain, archaic, thieves' cant) A petty thief or pickpocket.
    • c. 1610–1611, Shakespeare, William, The Winter's Tale, Act 4, Scene 3:
      Out upon him! Prig, for my life, prig! He haunts / wakes, fairs, and bear-baitings.
    • 1838, Dickens, Charles, Oliver Twist:
      Oh, why didn't he rob some rich old gentleman of all his walables, and go out as a gentleman, and not like a common prig, without no honour nor glory!
    • a. 1890,, McGonagall, William Topaz, The Christmas Goose:
      But a policeman captur'd the naughty boy, / And gave the goose to Smiggs, / And said he was greatly bother'd / By a set of juvenile prigs.
  3. A deliberately superior person; a person who demonstrates an exaggerated conformity or propriety, especially in an irritatingly arrogant or smug manner.
    • 1676, Etherege, George, The Man of Mode, Act 3, Scene 3:
      What spruce prig is that?
    • 1849, Thackeray, William Makepeace, “A Hopeless Case”, in Doctor Birch:
      I have always had a regard for dunces; — those of my own school-days were amongst the pleasantest of the fellows, and have turned out by no means the dullest in life; whereas many a youth who could turn off Latin hexameters by the yard, and construe Greek quite glibly, is no better than a feeble prig now, with not a pennyworth more brains than were in his head before his beard grew.
    • 1871, Elliot, George, Middlemarch:
      A prig is a fellow who is always making you a present of his opinions.
  4. (archaic) A conceited dandy; a fop.
    • 1891, Hardy, Thomas, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, page 140:
      The manner of the scholar had nearly disappeared; still more the manner of the drawing-room young man. A prig would have said that he had lost his culture, and a prude that he had become coarse.
    • 1822, Dolby, Thomas, Benchiana, page 67:
      A rap now at the door made all resound, / And in two bouncing blowings did rebound, / With two flash-men, a dandy, and a prig', / With whom they had been running of the rig.


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prig (third-person singular simple present prigs, present participle prigging, simple past and past participle prigged)

  1. (slang, dated) To filch or steal.
    to prig a handkerchief
    • 1591, Greene, Robert, The Second and Last Part of Conny-catching:
      Now, this Trailer he bestrides the horse which he priggeth, and saddles and bridles him as orderly as if he were his own, and then carieth him far from the place of his breed, and ther sels him.
    • 1622, Fletcher, John, Beggars' Bush, published 1706, Scene 2, page 71:
      Higgen hath prig'd the Prancers in his Days
    • 1890, Russell, William Clark, An Ocean Tragedy[1], volume 1, page 204:
      If she'd ha' taken herself off and stopped at that I dunno as I should have any occasion to grumble; but she prigged the furniture that I'd laid in agin getting married.
  2. To ride
  3. To copulate
    • 1707, “The Maunder's Praise of his Strowling Mort”, in Farmer, John Stephen, editor, Musa Pedestris[2], published 1896, page 34:
      Wapping thou I know does love, / Else the ruffin cly the mort; / From thy stampers then remove, / Thy drawers, and let's prig in sport.



  • [Francis Grose] (1788), “Prig”, in A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 2nd corrected and enlarged edition, London: Printed for S. Hooper, [], OCLC 3138643.
  • Farmer, John Stephen (1890–1904) Slang and Its Analogues, page 297–301




Of unknown origin.


prig (third-person singular present prigs, present participle prigin, past prigt, past participle prigt)

  1. To haggle or argue over price.
    • 1513, Douglas, Gavin, Eneados:
      Sum treitcheoure crynis the cunye, and kepis corne stakkis; Sum prig penny, sum pyke thank with preny promit.
    • 1786, Robert Burns, The Brigs Of Ayr:
      Men wha grew wise priggin owre hops and raisins,