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

In my view, Utah, Washington and WSU don’t have a single, non-conference opponent that moves the needle in a positive way. oregonlive, "The Pac-12′s playoff chances can be summed up in three words ... slim and none: Issues & Answers," 4 Sep. 2019 These announcements are yet another example—such as banning plastic straws, false sustainability claims, and corporate commitments that are far in the future—that seem to be more of a PR exercise than real attempts to move the needle. Yossi Sheffi, Quartz, "Removing mini-shampoos from hotel rooms won’t save the environment," 29 Aug. 2019 Here is his story, which acknowledges OSU’s efforts probably won’t move the needle much -- at least, not this year., "Night kickoffs, losses continue to be issues for attendance at Oregon State home games: Issues & Answers," 28 Aug. 2019 Volunteers were even finding needles in and around the river, said Ellen Lana, environmental advocacy coordinator for Patagonia. Saja Hindi, The Denver Post, "5 electric scooters, a bike and heaps of plastic among items collected from the South Platte River," 25 Aug. 2019 The announcement is yet another example – such as banning plastic straws, false sustainability claims and corporate commitments that are far in the future – that seem to be more of a PR exercise than real attempts to move the needle. Yossi Sheffi, The Conversation, "Removing mini-shampoos from hotel rooms won’t save the environment," 23 Aug. 2019 Antonio Brown is looking for a needle in a haystack. Dan Gartland,, "Antonio Brown’s Trade Offer for His Prized Helmet Is Absurdly Low," 13 Aug. 2019 Toney Armstrong: That's the needle in the haystack. CBS News, "Lorenzen Wright death: Surprise plea deal latest twist in the case of slain NBA star," 27 July 2019 Look in the trash Not surprisingly, needles in the trash are a tip-off. Shari Rudavsky, Indianapolis Star, "7 things to look for in a teen's bedroom that can tell you he or she is doing drugs," 22 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The organization is offering a $10 gift card to needle-exchange clients who get tested for HIV, because people who inject drugs are at higher risk, said Cassidy Snyder, co-founder and director of the volunteer group. Stephanie Innes, azcentral, "Yavapai county investigating spike in new HIV cases," 30 Aug. 2019 Get those big decisions mostly right, diversify and forget needling in haystacks. Ken Fisher, USA TODAY, "10 bits of investment wisdom that can help your 401(k) flourish," 11 Aug. 2019 EBay made a more pointed reference to Amazon in its announcement, needling the company for its periodic website outages last year on Prime Day. Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN, "How Amazon Prime Day became the shopping Super Bowl," 13 July 2019 There are thousands of cold cases in New York City, needling reminders of unfinished business. Michael Wilson, New York Times, "48 Years Later, a Cold Case Mystery: Who Killed Officer Bolden?," 28 Aug. 2019 Online auctioneer eBay promoted its sale with a commercial released last week that needled Amazon. Benjamin Romano,, "Amazon critics, rivals pouncing on Prime Day spotlight," 15 July 2019 Doctors sounded the mysteries of their union by needling each brother at random, or feeding one of them asparagus and smelling the other’s urine. Julian Lucas, The New York Review of Books, "The Great Assimilationists," 21 Feb. 2019 Colorado Democrats have needled Gardner on tariffs this week, comparing his criticisms of tariffs to his handling of Trump’s national emergency declaration for the southern border. Justin Wingerter, The Denver Post, "Cory Gardner slams Trump tariffs: “Turning our backs on American workers and consumers”," 7 June 2019 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

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

14 Sep 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

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).


authorized for issue (as a bond)

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