pierc·​ing | \ˈpir-siŋ \

Definition of piercing 

(Entry 1 of 2)

: penetrating: such as

a : loud, shrill piercing cries

b : perceptive piercing eyes

c : penetratingly cold : biting a piercing wind

d : cutting, incisive piercing sarcasm



Definition of piercing (Entry 2 of 2)

: a piece of jewelry (such as a ring or stud) that is attached to pierced flesh

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Other Words from piercing


piercingly \ˈpir-​siŋ-​lē \ adverb

Synonyms for piercing

Synonyms: Adjective

biting, bitter, cutting, keen, penetrating, raw, sharp, shrewd, smarting, stinging

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Examples of piercing in a Sentence


She looked at me with piercing eyes, and I was suddenly frightened that she knew what I had done. I tried to avoid his piercing stare. She felt a piercing sadness when she heard the news.


There's a small shop in town where they do tattooing and body piercing. She got another ear piercing.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

But the visualization shows the midsection buzz transforming into a more piercing screech to overcome the pump’s din. Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, "Near Noisy Oil Fields, Lovesick Birds Change Their Tunes," 13 Mar. 2018 Making her ice blue gaze that much more piercing, glowing skin and a rosy nude pigment (courtesy of Dior’s new Addict Lacquer Plump lip stain in Lovely-D) rounded out the look. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "Inside Paris Jackson’s Rock 'n' Roll Beauty Diary at the Dior Party in L.A.," 15 Mar. 2018 And when Marjorie Prime, still working out a fraught relationship with her daughter, streams a favorite song of the younger woman's as a peace offering, what unfolds is one of the most piercing moments in movies this year. Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter, "Critic's Notebook: In 'Marjorie Prime,' Lois Smith Gets Her Greatest Screen Role," 27 Nov. 2017 There are no words to describe the piercing loss Winchester felt on the worst day of his life. Vahe Gregorian, kansascity, "Forgiveness and faith buoy Chiefs’ James Winchester through murder of his father," 22 Sep. 2017 One of the first instances of body art practitioners asking to be regulated was in Florida, where a piercing law was enacted in 1999 with input from the industry. Marsha Mercer, Washington Post, "How safe and sanitary is ‘body art’? Laws regulating tattoos, piercing vary widely.," 25 June 2017 But Cornell still emerged as one of alternative-rock’s ultimate heartthrobs for his long, curly hair, fondness for going shirtless and piercing eyes. Chris Macias, sacbee.com, "Why Gen X - and rockers everywhere - are mourning Chris Cornell," 18 May 2017 But his piercing skill was enough to instill fear in the Panamanian soccer team, which responded with brute force in a 1-1 draw with the United States on Tuesday night. David Waldstein, New York Times, "Christian Pulisic of U.S. Becomes a Target, but Makes His Mark Anyway," 29 Mar. 2017 More muscles and more lustrous hair and more piercing eyes. Kenzie Bryant, Vanities, "Jon Hamm Wants to Prove How Many Beautiful People Are Funny, Too," 19 June 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Worn in a modern way, with dangling stones hanging from multiple piercings and a sleek necklace draped down her back, the jewels were a final touch of elegance that made the entire look unforgettable. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Gigi Hadid Delivers ’90s Supermodel Glamour at the Pirelli Calendar Launch Party in Milan," 6 Dec. 2018 The two-story market sells fruit, vegetables, dry goods, and meat on the first floor; the second floor has a hippy-dippy bent, with incense, henna tattoos, piercings, and woven backpacks. Scarlett Lindeman, Condé Nast Traveler, "13 Best Markets in Mexico City," 5 Mar. 2018 According to my mother, a baby nurse at the hospital administered the piercing using an ice cube and a needle. Patricia Garcia, Vogue, "Kylie Jenner Sparks a Cultural Debate: Is Stormi Too Young for Pierced Ears?," 19 July 2018 Its front end was smashed, and a woman dressed in black, wearing a G.G. Allin T-shirt, chunky boots and a trail of lip piercings, got out. Christopher Borrelli, chicagotribune.com, "Cartoonist Carol Tyler recounts her Beatles-obsessed childhood in Chicago," 15 June 2018 To avoid infection and other complications, the AAP recommends having a medical professional perform a piercing, using rubbing alcohol or some form of disinfectant. PEOPLE.com, "Kylie Jenner Pierces 5-Month-Old Daughter Stormi's Ears: How Safe Is the Procedure for Babies?," 12 July 2018 Punk and profane in her writing and her life, Acker was voracious and shape-shifting, rebellious and disruptive, and fiercely adamant (with her tattoos, piercings and signature crew cut) about the awkward and tender toughness of being embodied. Kathleen Rooney, New York Times, "Three Literary Critics Who Engage With Their Subjects, Unconventionally," 27 Apr. 2018 During last fall’s ‘the drop@barneys’ event, shoppers could find exclusive limited-edition items and get custom sneakers, tattoos and piercings. Ray A. Smith, WSJ, "Retailers Stalk the Elusive Millennial Shopper," 30 May 2018 Over the course of nine months, patients at a Pennsylvania hospital rated the competency of doctors with and without body piercings and tattoos. Mary Bernard, Philly.com, "Will that tattoo hurt you professionally? Not if you're a doctor, study finds," 9 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'piercing.' 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 piercing


14th century, in the meaning defined above


1977, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for piercing

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Time Traveler for piercing

The first known use of piercing was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for piercing



English Language Learners Definition of piercing

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: seeming to have the power to see a person's thoughts or feelings

: very loud and high-pitched

: having a strong affect on someone : felt in a very noticeable way



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

: the act or practice of decorating your body with jewelry or other objects that are attached directly to your skin

: a hole through part of the body where a piece of jewelry can be attached


pierc·​ing | \ˈpir-siŋ\

Kids Definition of piercing

1 : able to penetrate a piercing wind a piercing look

2 : loud and high-pitched piercing cries

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Comments on piercing

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


a knickknack or trinket

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