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 needle (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 needle (audio) \ adjective


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

Synonyms for needle

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of needle in a Sentence

Noun 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. Verb 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 But there are limits to what can be shoehorned into legislation passing through the eye of this needle, and MacDonough is the last word on what those limits are. Philip Elliott, Time, "Why the Democrats' Infrastructure Bill Hinges on One Ruling," 5 Apr. 2021 Multigenerational travel is also returning, as more grandparents receive the kiss of the needle. Washington Post, "Vaccines and summer travel: What families need to know," 25 Mar. 2021 Newspapers regularly reported on new masses of volunteers and filled columns with quotes and anecdotes from elementary school students who had overcome their own personal fears of the needle, often encouraged by the promise of candy. Annika Neklason, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Press Made the Polio Vaccine Trials Into a Public Spectacle," 23 Mar. 2021 Jobs were lost throughout America, and politicians will tell you (to this day) that the industry exported American jobs in a search of a lower cost of needle. Rick Helfenbein, Forbes, "Does America Need A Fashion Czar?," 2 Mar. 2021 The absence of a needle might allay the concerns of those who are now hesitant about vaccination. Daniel P. Oran, Scientific American, "To Beat COVID, We May Need a Good Shot in the Nose," 1 Mar. 2021 With a few pricks of a needle, the gel plumps sunken areas, smooths fine lines, and decreases shadows—then slowly dissolves over the course of one year. Harper's Bazaar Staff, Harper's BAZAAR, "What Is Hyaluronic Acid?," 26 Feb. 2021 Near that large sculpture of a needle going through a button, there appeared, in a plant enclosure, a metal sculpture of the head of a woman. Rivka Galchen, The New Yorker, "Living in New York’s Unloved Neighborhood," 8 Feb. 2021 It’s never completely green because the underside of the needle is white. Environment, "Climate troubles loom for South Korea’s ‘Christmas Tree Island’," 24 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Even these people might be wrestled into acquiescence this year if enough of your co-workers needle them. Amanda Mull, The Atlantic, "The Ideal Number of Days to Work From Home," 10 May 2021 But Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines’ president, has largely avoided confronting China over the issue, preferring instead to needle America, an ally but also a former colonial occupier of the Philippines. The Economist, "Reef madness China tries to nick another speck in the sea from the Philippines," 10 Apr. 2021 Hours later, White House press secretary Jen Psaki went out of her way to needle the governor, pivoting from a question from Fox News about the lack of testing at the border while air travelers arriving from overseas must show a negative test. Todd J. Gillman, Dallas News, "As Abbott hits Biden for releasing migrants with COVID, White House asks why Texas rejects funds for tests," 11 Mar. 2021 But that has not stopped Fox News from trying to needle the late night establishment. Stephen Battaglio Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Greg Gutfeld goes after late night laughs for Fox News," 5 Apr. 2021 For communities of color, there are other factors to consider, Manning said, including access to vaccination clinics, needle phobias and literacy. Kristen Rogers, CNN, "Tuskegee isn't the only reason why some Black people are hesitant to get the coronavirus vaccine," 30 Mar. 2021 President Biden continued to needle his Russian counterpart on Friday, not ruling out Vladimir Putin’s challenge to a debate and promising to slap new sanctions on Moscow. John T. Bennett, Washington Examiner, "Biden does not turn down Putin's challenge to a live, televised debate," 19 Mar. 2021 Once a Rays coach, Baldelli didn't let the chance to needle his old boss pass. Jerry Zgoda, Star Tribune, "Twins outfielder Brent Rooker doesn't wait long to signal return to power," 1 Mar. 2021 Opt out of responding to people who needle you into frustration or cover over their insults with thinly-veiled jokes. Tarot Astrologers,, "Daily horoscope for February 26, 2021," 26 Feb. 2021

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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Time Traveler for needle

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for needle

Last Updated

15 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Needle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2021.

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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 needle (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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