bris·​tle | \ ˈbri-səl How to pronounce bristle (audio) \

Definition of bristle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a short stiff coarse hair or filament hog bristles short bristle paint brushes


bristled; bristling\ ˈbris-​liŋ How to pronounce bristle (audio) , ˈbri-​sə-​ \

Definition of bristle (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to furnish with short stiff coarse hairs or filaments : to furnish with bristles
2 : to make aggressive or angry : to make bristly : ruffle

intransitive verb

1a : to rise and stand stiffly erect quills bristling
b : to raise the bristles (as in anger) a snarling, bristling dog
2 : to take on an aggressively defensive attitude (as in response to a slight or criticism) he bristled at the accusations of corruption
3a : to be full of or covered with especially something suggestive of bristles roofs bristled with chimneys
b : to be full of something specified book bristles with detail and irony— W. J. Broad

Other Words from bristle


bristlelike \ ˈbri-​sə(l)-​ˌlīk How to pronounce bristle (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for bristle

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of bristle in a Sentence

Noun a face covered with bristles the bristles of a brush Verb Electricity makes your hair bristle. a recent college grad thrilled to be starting a new life in a city bristling with possibilities
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun After giving Schafer’s wet hair a clean center part, the pro worked Virtue 6-in-1 Styling Paste through her lengths and used a dense boar bristle brush to brush the hair down to ultra-sleek effect. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, 28 Mar. 2022 Use your bristle brush to get off stubborn dirt and to scrub zippers clean. Joe Lindsey, Outside Online, 17 July 2021 There are many types of pet toothbrushes, but Jennifer Tjepkema, a veterinary dentist at the Animal Dental Center in Annapolis, Maryland, recommends just using a soft-bristle children’s toothbrush for pets. Washington Post, 13 Apr. 2022 People who spent years proving themselves worthy of entry bristle at seeing junior colleagues getting VIP treatment from day one. Callum Borchers, WSJ, 10 Mar. 2022 Some bristle at the prospect of governments regulating diversity efforts, whether through quotas or other measures. Sarah Todd, Quartz, 8 Apr. 2022 With six brushing modes and a rotating bristle head, the Genius X electric toothbrush delivers a deep clean to teeth and gums, removing plaque and food debris while preventing tooth decay and gingivitis. Chloe Irving,, 1 Feb. 2022 Luckily, this bristle-free grill brush scrapes grime from your grill without shedding metal into the basin. Lily Gray, Better Homes & Gardens, 4 Mar. 2022 Also, avoid drying brushes vertically with the bristles up — this can cause water to leak into the ferrule (the piece that joins the bristles to the handle), which also will loosen the glue and lead to bristle loss. Kate Sullivan, Kristi Kellogg, Allure, 14 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb First, Erik Spoelstra would bristle at the notion of terming Duncan Robinson’s shift to the second team as a demotion. Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel, 27 Apr. 2022 First, Erik Spoelstra would bristle at the notion of terming Duncan Robinson’s shift to the second team as a demotion. Ira Winderman,, 1 Apr. 2022 Of course, many of the dozen tourists who have previously visited the ISS brought their own research projects and didn’t bristle at the title. Tim Fernholz, Quartz, 13 Apr. 2022 Vic does, however, bristle that Melinda gravitates to dimwits like Joel Dash ( Brendan Miller ), who when trying to ask if Vic feels emasculated can’t even pronounce the word. Amy Nicholson, WSJ, 17 Mar. 2022 Many Republicans now bristle when Trump or Tucker Carlson’s praise for Putin is connected to the GOP at large right now. Daniel Strauss, The New Republic, 9 Mar. 2022 Young lion cubs are plentiful, and small elephants huddle by their mothers, who bristle preemptively at the sound of a jeep. Mark Ellwood, Robb Report, 22 Mar. 2022 And some bosses will bristle at the shifting norms. Rachel Feintzeig, WSJ, 21 Mar. 2022 The lyrics bristle with local slang, and the music videos are bathed in the noir glow of Motor City back streets and strip malls. New York Times, 14 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bristle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of bristle


14th century, in the meaning defined above


15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for bristle


Middle English bristil, from brust bristle, from Old English byrst; akin to Old High German burst bristle, and perhaps to Latin fastigium top


verbal derivative of bristle entry 1

Buying Guide

Our Reviews team has selected the best electric razors for men.

Learn More About bristle

Time Traveler for bristle

Time Traveler

The first known use of bristle was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near bristle




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for bristle

Last Updated

21 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Bristle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for bristle


bris·​tle | \ ˈbri-səl How to pronounce bristle (audio) \

Kids Definition of bristle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a short stiff hair a hog's bristle
2 : a stiff hair or something like a hair fastened in a brush


bristled; bristling

Kids Definition of bristle (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to rise up and stiffen like bristles Her evil laugh makes your hair bristle.
2 : to show signs of anger The judge bristled at the reminder of her stupidity.— Ellen Raskin, The Westing Game
3 : to be covered with The bush bristled with thorns.


bris·​tle | \ ˈbris-əl How to pronounce bristle (audio) \

Medical Definition of bristle

: a short stiff coarse hair or filament

More from Merriam-Webster on bristle

Nglish: Translation of bristle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of bristle for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about bristle


Test Your Vocabulary

Which Word Does Not Belong?

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!