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 McDaniel wasn’t invited to preen with the other stars, and wasn’t even mentioned in the program. Kyle Smith, National Review, "Hollywood Won’t Really Leave Georgia," 14 Apr. 2021 People who are interested in each other are more likely to preen, according to Navarro. Megan Marples And Illustration By Will Mullery, CNN, "Win at virtual dating with body language tips from a former FBI agent," 1 Apr. 2021 When this reporter noted that the one-in-a-million cardinal has the right to preen a bit, Chelsea agreed. al, "Yellow cardinal like those seen in Alabama spotted in Illinois," 9 Mar. 2021 February through May is the best time to observe the birds’ dramatic mating rituals that include aerial dances with males and females swooping, diving and roosting to preen before building platform nests in stony cracks. Mare Czinar, The Arizona Republic, "This Scottsdale hike is for the birds: Here's how to see the ravens on Browns Mountain," 3 Mar. 2021 After thoroughly covering themselves in dust, turkeys preen their feathers with their beaks, which helps clean the features and realign the interlocking feather barbules. Corryn Wetzel, Smithsonian Magazine, "View Amazing Photos and Video of a Turkey Dust Bathing," 25 Nov. 2020 While patiently waiting for a food clue, the birds will preen. Jim Williams, Star Tribune, "Why birds spend so much time preening," 25 Aug. 2020 The male and female spend all year together, constantly preening each other to maintain the pair bond. National Geographic, "Horned screamer," 28 May 2020 Webcams stationed in the aquarium’s June Keyes Penguin Habitat allow online visitors to watch the animals waddle and preen on a rocky beach and dart around underwater. Lindsay Lambert Day, Condé Nast Traveler, "These Wildlife Webcams Will Cure Your Cabin Fever," 18 Mar. 2020

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

21 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Preen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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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.

More from Merriam-Webster on preen

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for preen

Nglish: Translation of preen for Spanish Speakers

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