nee·​dle | \ ˈnē-dᵊl How to pronounce needle (audio) \

Definition of needle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a small slender usually steel instrument that has an eye for thread or surgical sutures at one end and that is used for sewing
b : any of various devices for carrying thread and making stitches (as in crocheting or knitting)
c(1) : a slender hollow instrument for introducing material into or removing material from the body (as by insertion under the skin)
(2) : an extremely thin solid usually stainless steel instrument used in acupuncture and inserted through the skin
d : any of various slender hollow devices used to introduce matter (such as air) into or remove it from an object (such as a ball)
2a : a slender bar of magnetized steel that when allowed to turn freely (as in a compass) indicates the direction of a magnetic field (as of the earth)
b : a slender usually sharp-pointed indicator on a dial
3a : a slender pointed object resembling a needle: such as
(1) : a pointed crystal
(2) : a sharp rock
(3) : obelisk
b : a needle-shaped leaf (as of a conifer)
c : a slender rod (as of jewel or steel) with a rounded tip used in a phonograph to transmit vibrations from a record : stylus
d : a slender pointed rod controlling a fine inlet or outlet (as in a valve)
4 : a teasing or gibing remark


needled; needling\ ˈnēd-​liŋ How to pronounce needling (audio) , ˈnē-​dᵊl-​iŋ \

Definition of needle (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to sew or pierce with or as if with a needle
2a : tease, torment
b : to incite to action by repeated gibes needled the boy into a fight

Illustration of needle

Illustration of needle


needle 1: 1 suture, 2 sewing, 3 knitting

In the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from needle


needlelike \ ˈnē-​dᵊl-​ˌ(l)īk How to pronounce needlelike (audio) \ adjective


needler \ ˈnēd-​lər How to pronounce needler (audio) , ˈnē-​dᵊl-​ər \ noun

Synonyms for needle

Synonyms: Noun

hype [slang], hypodermic, hypodermic needle, hypodermic syringe, syringe

Synonyms: Verb

bait, hassle, haze, heckle, ride, taunt, tease

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of needle in a Sentence


I need a needle and thread to sew the button on your shirt. The needle on the scale points to 9 grams. The compass needle points north.


His classmates needled him about his new haircut. we needled him mercilessly for thinking that he had any chance of being the prom date for the school's most popular girl
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Some people choose to be big activists and really try and move the needle and make a big difference, but other people can just exist. Patrick Gomez,, "6 celebrity LGBTQ trailblazers on growing up, coming out, and living proud in Hollywood," 5 June 2019 But these deals are relatively small and may not move the needle financially for Kraft Heinz as quickly as investors would like. Paul R. La Monica, CNN, "Kraft Heinz is in trouble. How bad could it get?," 4 June 2019 And then when you’re content not to move the needle too much, even your relatively restrained variations can send the internet peanut gallery into a shell-throwing frenzy. Becky Krystal, The Denver Post, "The key to these gooey, chocolaty blondies? Open sesame.," 3 June 2019 Other influential stars who have moved the needle include Pharrell Williams, with his penchant for wearing Chanel cardigans, and actor Ezra Miller, who’s sported leopard-print coats. Jacob Gallagher, WSJ, "Who Needs Gender? Why Men and Women Are Dressing Identically," 21 Feb. 2019 Google clearly wants to develop Wear OS into a strong competitor to the Apple Watch, but without new hardware that’s smaller, faster, and more fashionable, Tiles aren’t going to move the needle too much. Michael Simon, PCWorld, "Google's Wear OS gets glancy with swipeable Tiles for news, weather, timers, and more," 1 May 2019 Now, in honor of Earth Day, two more fashion entities are moving the needle further, this time with furniture. Brooke Bobb, Vogue, "These Chairs Were Designed Using Recycled Clothing From Maison Margiela, Off-White, Raf Simons, and More," 22 Apr. 2019 Over by the racks of clothes, fashion fixers with needles in hand made last-minute adjustments to the jeweled harnesses in the collection. Laura Regensdorf, Vogue, "These Marbleized Lips at Eckhaus Latta Are About to Become an Art-Punk Beauty Obsession," 8 Sep. 2018 His office had open bottles with needles in them and allowed for cross-contamination of blood products. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "More than 200 doctors stay on Medicare rolls despite disciplinary actions," 17 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Sometimes wrinkles correspond to acupuncture points on the face, which can be needled for their location and not necessarily for their function, DiLibero explains. Roxanne Adamiyatt, Town & Country, "What Exactly Is Facial Acupuncture — And Why You Should Try It," 6 Feb. 2019 Kemp needled Cagle over the surreptitious recording that surfaced last month. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "Trump scores on his own goal," 16 July 2018 While Tehran often needles its rivals with harsh rhetoric, Iran’s leaders had been muted in responding to Mr. Khashoggi’s killing, stepping back as international pressure on Saudi Arabia rose sharply. Asa Fitch, WSJ, "Iran Slams Saudis Over Dissident Killing, Suggests U.S. Ties Were Key," 24 Oct. 2018 Those ties are so thick that Uruguay striker Luis Suarez needled Griezmann this week for trying to be Uruguayan., "What to watch for in today's World Cup quarterfinal matchups," 6 July 2018 But the show also deftly portrayed the old Russia vs. the disruptive and needling new Russia, whose operatives engage in sophisticated hacking and are driven by decade-old grievances against the West. Michael S. Rosenwald, Washington Post, "Before ‘The Americans’ and ‘Homeland,’ Russian TV spies were simple villains. No more.," 2 May 2018 But the show also deftly portrayed the old Russia vs. the disruptive and needling new Russia, whose operatives engage in sophisticated hacking and are driven by decade-old grievances against the West. Michael S. Rosenwald,, "Before 'The Americans' and 'Homeland,' Russian TV spies were simple villains, but no more," 2 May 2018 At the same time, Mr. Legere embraced social media as a tool to promote himself and needle his adversaries. David Gelles, New York Times, "‘He’s a Pit Bull’: T-Mobile C.E.O. Is the Colorful Outlier of Wireless," 1 May 2018 Ronaldo has scored a tournament-leading four goals — all of Portugal's goals so far — while silently needling Messi. Ben Nuckols,, "Messi, Argentina under pressure to win against Croatia," 20 June 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of needle


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


circa 1715, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for needle


Middle English nedle, from Old English nǣdl; akin to Old High German nādala needle, nājan to sew, Latin nēre to spin, Greek nēn

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about needle

Statistics for needle

Last Updated

8 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for needle

The first known use of needle was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for needle



English Language Learners Definition of needle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a small, very thin object that is used in sewing and that has a sharp point at one end and a hole for thread
: one of the two long, thin sticks that are used in knitting and that are pointed at one end
: a very thin, pointed steel tube that is pushed through the skin so that something (such as a drug) can be put into your body or so that blood or other fluids can be taken from it



English Language Learners Definition of needle (Entry 2 of 2)

informal : to criticize and laugh at (someone) in either a friendly or an unkind way


nee·​dle | \ ˈnē-dᵊl How to pronounce needle (audio) \

Kids Definition of needle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a small slender pointed usually steel tool used for sewing
2 : a slender pointed piece of metal or plastic (used for knitting)
3 : a leaf (as of a pine) shaped like a needle
4 : a pointer on a dial The needle on her gas gauge read “empty.”
5 : a slender hollow instrument that has a sharp point and by which material is put into or taken from the body through the skin

Other Words from needle

needlelike \ ˈnē-​dᵊl-​ˌlīk \ adjective


needled; needling

Kids Definition of needle (Entry 2 of 2)


nee·​dle | \ ˈnēd-ᵊl How to pronounce needle (audio) \

Medical Definition of needle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a small slender usually steel instrument designed to carry sutures when sewing tissues in surgery
2 : a slender hollow instrument for introducing material into or removing material from the body parenterally
needled; needling\ ˈnēd-​liŋ, -​ᵊl-​iŋ How to pronounce needling (audio) \

Medical Definition of needle (Entry 2 of 2)

: to puncture, operate on, or inject with a needle needling a cataract

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on needle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with needle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for needle

Spanish Central: Translation of needle

Nglish: Translation of needle for Spanish Speakers

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

Comments on needle

What made you want to look up needle? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


standardized text or formulaic language

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Finance Words Quiz

  • a-piggy-bank
  • The etymology of mortgage is related most closely to which two words?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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