nee·​dle | \ ˈnē-dᵊl \

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 , 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

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Other Words from needle


needlelike \ ˈnē-​dᵊl-​ˌ(l)īk \ adjective


needler \ ˈnēd-​lər , 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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

On the table were dozens of dirty needles, small water bottles and cookers. Danica Coto, The Seattle Times, "Growing opioid crisis adds to Puerto Rico’s problems," 7 Jan. 2019 For each client, your artist should open a new set of needles, place ink into new containers or trays, wear gloves while tattooing, and replace those gloves with a new pair after each break to reduce the risk of infection, the Mayo Clinic says. Jessica Toscano, SELF, "9 Smart Questions to Ask Before Getting a Tattoo," 9 Nov. 2018 The lid goes on top to keep out pine needles, bark, snow, and bugs. James Lynch, Popular Mechanics, "How to Make Maple Syrup," 5 Nov. 2018 In New York, proponents of the idea insist the sites would keep dirty needles from littering the streets by keeping injections indoors. Luis FerrÉ-sadurnÍ, New York Times, "To Cut Drug Deaths, City Considers Sanctioned Places to Shoot Up," 9 Feb. 2018 The statement, which Google has supplied similar versions of to journalists in response to questions about the project, appeared to thread a needle. Colin Lecher, The Verge, "What Google’s CEO told Congress about China — and what he didn’t," 12 Dec. 2018 Leave it to the Europeans to thread the needle between ridiculous and riveting. Taylor Antrim, Vogue, "Escapist Spy Thriller Deutschland 86 Breaks the Curse of the Second Season," 24 Oct. 2018 Hopefully some accommodation can be made to thread the needle between the ESRB's ratings requirements and the core audience's desire for authenticity. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "Zen Studios alters classic pinball art to protect family-friendly rating [Updated]," 12 Oct. 2018 Across the country, Republican gubernatorial candidates have struggled to thread the needle on Medicaid expansion. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: GOP candidates caught in a bind on Medicaid," 13 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 The facial includes a cleanse, followed by an intensive TCA peel, micro-needling machine and en electrifying mask to calm the skin, followed by my 'secret box' of EGF (Epidermal Growth Factor) serum. Ingrid Schmidt, The Hollywood Reporter, "The Story Behind The Cate Blanchett ‘Penis Facial’ Controversy," 16 Mar. 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.

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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

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Statistics for needle

Last Updated

19 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for needle

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

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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)

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


nee·​dle | \ ˈnē-dᵊl \

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 \

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 \

Medical Definition of needle (Entry 2 of 2)

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

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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

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