verb (1)
\ ˈprēn How to pronounce preen (audio) \
preened; preening; preens

Definition of preen

 (Entry 1 of 3)

transitive verb

1 of a bird : to groom with the bill especially by rearranging the barbs and barbules of the feathers and by distributing oil from the uropygial gland
2 : to dress or smooth (oneself) up : primp
3 : to pride or congratulate (oneself) on an achievement

intransitive verb

1 : to make oneself sleek
2 : to behave or speak with obvious pride or self-satisfaction



Definition of preen (Entry 2 of 3)

1 dialectal, chiefly British : pin
2 dialectal, chiefly British : brooch


verb (2)
preened; preening; preens

Definition of preen (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

chiefly Scotland
: pin

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Other Words from preen

Verb (1)

preener noun

Examples of preen in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Couples dance together and preen one another’s necks, which helps strengthen their bond. National Geographic, "Gray crowned crane," 10 Feb. 2020 Cartoons of the period show caricatures of self-regarding young fops posing and preening with their monocles on full display. Austin Grossman, The Atlantic, "Monocles Were Never Cool," 13 Oct. 2019 About the only people able to afford a Knicks ticket these days are preening hedge-fund bros who think a back-door play is something to hide from the Securities and Exchange Commission. Dan Barry, New York Times, "The Lost Decade of New York Sports," 30 Dec. 2019 And Schiff preens, makes speeches about virtue and shows no shame. John Kass,, "Column: Horowitz report finally unmasks Adam Schiff. Who’s going to call him out on his lies?," 12 Dec. 2019 The Wall preened for magazine pictorials and played the heavy in spy novels. Time, "The Berlin Wall Is a Reminder That Barriers Last Only As Long as the Political Will to Defend Them," 8 Nov. 2019 As director and star, Norton adapts the 1999 novel by Jonathan Lethem and vies with the book’s preening cleverness. Armond White, National Review, "Motherless Brooklyn’s Retro Liberalism," 13 Nov. 2019 Throughout the playoffs, Juan Soto, the Nationals’ budding superstar, danced and preened and licked his chops in the batter’s box between pitches—and then hit baseballs to the moon. Zach Helfand, The New Yorker, "The Washington Nationals Won the Most Memorable World Series in Years," 31 Oct. 2019 Ferrell’s Ricky Bobby also serves as a pitch-perfect parody of the ego-driven, preening male protagonists of many a racing film. Tyler Aquilina,, "10 racing movies that put stars behind the wheel," 12 Nov. 2019

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

Verb (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (2)

1572, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for preen

Verb (1)

Middle English prenen, alteration of proynen, prunen, from Anglo-French puroindre, proindre, from pur- thoroughly + uindre, oindre to anoint, rub, from Latin unguere — more at purchase entry 1, ointment


Middle English prene, from Old English prēon; akin to Middle High German pfrieme awl

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Time Traveler for preen

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

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Statistics for preen

Last Updated

20 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Preen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for preen


\ ˈprēn How to pronounce preen (audio) \
preened; preening

Kids Definition of preen

1 : to smooth and clean with the bill The sparrow preened its feathers.
2 : to make a person's own appearance neat and tidy He preened himself in front of the mirror.

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More from Merriam-Webster on preen

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with preen

Spanish Central: Translation of preen

Nglish: Translation of preen for Spanish Speakers

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