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

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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

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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

Tessa Thompson has gotten used to threading the needle between nostalgia and creating something new. Brian Davids, The Hollywood Reporter, "Tessa Thompson on the 'Men in Black' Line She Declined to Say," 14 June 2019 Second, Miller threaded the needle between staying loyal to that first Tremors film and making a more 2018-appropriate TV series. Nathan Mattise, Ars Technica, "Kevin Bacon shares the Tremors TV pilot—Val is washed, Graboids are hungry," 9 June 2019 Getting into Pitcairn’s harbor is the marine equivalent of threading a needle while riding a roller coaster. Stanley Stewart, Condé Nast Traveler, "Exploring Polynesia's Islands by Cruise," 28 June 2019 Finding little support from her superiors in Beijing, Lam is still trying to thread the needle of restoring order without making concessions that would weaken her standing. Keith Bradsher,, "Protesters return to Hong Kong’s streets, rejecting leader’s apology," 16 June 2019 Woodland, much like Graeme McDowell in 2010, is a solid player who doesn’t really move the needle. Ron Kroichick,, "Pebble Beach more than holds its own in latest spin as U.S. Open host," 17 June 2019 At that scale, finding new assets with the potential to move the needle is a challenge. Charley Grant, WSJ, "Growth Is Worth Paying Up for at Pfizer," 17 June 2019 Black creators are setting the trends, moving the needle and informing where the worlds of fashion, beauty, and lifestyle are headed. Essence, "Shop Black: The African Wax Ties That Will Actually Make Your Dad Happy This Father's Day," 13 June 2019 Only House Democratic leadership—which mostly consists of septuagenarian millionaires—could think that Dean’s testimony would move the needle. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Democrats Are Losing This Made-for-TV Moment," 12 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Meanwhile Wu has pushed and often needled the administration on other matters, ranging from regulating short-term rental and lobbying industries to advocating for a wetlands ordinance and for the city to purchase clean energy only. Milton J. Valencia,, "Michelle Wu says Boston is ready for change. But is Boston ready for Michelle Wu?," 30 June 2019 Henry underwent laser treatment and dry needling to break up the scar tissue, and within minutes the nerve was firing correctly again, Jeff Henry said. Brody Miller,, "LSU freshman Cole Henry left super regional with nerve issue, expected to be ready by fall," 11 June 2019 Mary Louise manages to unsettle grieving daughter-in-law Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and needle the overbearing Madeline (Reese Witherspoon). Hal Boedeker,, "Meryl Streep, Doris Day, ‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not!’: Weekend for legends," 7 June 2019 Painted into a corner politically and economically by sanctions, Iran has long sought to push its interests and needle its enemies through the internet. Robert Mcmillan, WSJ, "Tech Giants Target Accounts Linked to Iran," 23 Aug. 2018 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

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

6 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

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)

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

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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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