\ ˈprēn How to pronounce preen (audio) \

Definition of preen

 (Entry 1 of 3)

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


verb (1)
preened; preening; preens

Definition of preen (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

chiefly Scotland
: pin


verb (2)
preened; preening; preens

Definition of preen (Entry 3 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

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Other Words from preen

Verb (2)

preener noun

Examples of preen in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Without our irrepressible divas, we’d be stuck with a bunch of preening clowns in megalithic ten-gallon hats who grew up in Dayton, Ohio. Joe Queenan, WSJ, "We Can All Be Thankful America Doesn’t Have Putin," 24 Nov. 2018 Man Eating Food feels like a remnant of old YouTube, before creators learned to preen, polish, and grapple with YouTube’s impossible algorithm. Megan Farokhmanesh, The Verge, "YouTuber who eats disgusting food is everything good about the internet," 20 Nov. 2018 Political leaders preen and hashtag and hurl insults, and when real life intrudes on the food fights? Lara Backmender, Glamour, "The March for Our Lives Activists Who Said Never Again," 1 Nov. 2018 For nonactors, preening in front of a camera with directors calling out emotions to convey merely with facial expressions and gestures can be cringe inducing. Katherine Rosman, New York Times, "15 Minutes of Fame Is Too Much. Try 6 Seconds.," 12 Feb. 2018 While the boys of summer out-blast, out-quip and out-cool each other in desperate attempts to create and elaborate on their fictional legends, Ginsburg is proving that real-life legends need no posturing, preening or pyrotechnics to earn their cred. Ann Hornaday,, "Forget the capes. This hero wears a robe.," 17 May 2018 It was thought the peacock might have been preening in the shiny reflection of the vehicle. Carol Cormaci,, "La Cañada History: Peacock’s attack on car infuriates local homeowners," 9 July 2018 Both Jordan and David are eager to preen for the cameras. Rebecca Farley,, "The Bachelorette Season 14, Episode 5 Recap: Your Greatest Power," 26 June 2018 The other two characters, brought in later, are the coldly analytical Borsuk (Jared Abrahamson) and the preening jock Allen (Blake Jenner). David Sims, The Atlantic, "The Slick but Empty True Crime of American Animals," 1 June 2018

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


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

Verb (1)

1572, in the meaning defined above

Verb (2)

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

History and Etymology for preen


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

Verb (2)

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, ointment

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Time Traveler for preen

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

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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

Comments on preen

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showing courage and determination

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