\ ˈprā How to pronounce prey (audio) \
plural prey also preys

Definition of prey

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : an animal taken by a predator as food
b : one that is helpless or unable to resist attack : victim was prey to his own appetites
2 : the act or habit of preying
3 archaic : spoil, booty


preyed; preying

Definition of prey (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to seize and devour prey
b : to commit violence or robbery or fraud
2 : to have an injurious, destructive, or wasting effect worry preyed upon his mind
3 : to make raids for the sake of booty

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Other Words from prey


preyer noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for prey

Synonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Noun

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Examples of prey in a Sentence

Noun The lion stalked its prey. The bird circled above looking for prey. The seals are easy prey for sharks. Too often elderly people are easy prey for swindlers and other criminals.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The two populations are linked because the hares are the lynx’s main prey. Morgan Krakow, Anchorage Daily News, "People are reporting odd interactions with lynx in Anchorage as their numbers grow," 26 Jan. 2020 Inmates described themselves as being prey to prison gangs who control the supply of contraband drugs and weapons, bedding, food and cellphones. Jerry Mitchell, ProPublica, "Lawmakers Refused to Increase an Infamous Prison’s Funding. Then, Chaos Erupted.," 12 Jan. 2020 Bottom trawls conducted in 2019 by USGS found the third-lowest level of alewife and third-lowest level of total prey fish since 1973. Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The latest Lake Michigan assessment shows alewife remain near a record low," 22 Feb. 2020 But what about your boss, a Harvey Weinstein type who takes pride in using his power to prey on each new, gullible starlet - and production assistant? Al Alexander, USA TODAY, "Review: ‘The Assistant’ is a quiet, powerful look at workplace harassment," 14 Feb. 2020 The Federal Trade Commission has warned that scams that prey on vulnerable people cost Americans more money than any other fraud reported to the agency. Faith Karimi, CNN, "An 80-year-old widower lost $200,000 in an online romance scam in Oregon," 14 Feb. 2020 The expansive roster opens up many questions about the archaic arms race between bacteria and the phages that prey on them. Elie Dolgin, Scientific American, "Kill Switch for CRISPR Could Make Gene Editing Safer," 17 Jan. 2020 Necessary Scientists often turn to bacteria and the bacteriophage viruses that prey on them to learn about coevolution. Quanta Magazine, "Biodiversity Alters Strategies of Bacterial Evolution," 6 Jan. 2020 Wolves also support the overall health of prey herds by eliminating weak and ill animals. Debra Utacia Krol, azcentral, "Competing interests leave Mexican gray wolf recovery efforts at a crossroads," 30 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Chief among these are invasive species like the mongoose, which preys on iguana eggs and young, as well as cats, which have been observed hunting and killing juvenile iguanas. National Geographic, "Jamaican iguana," 3 Mar. 2020 Nelson, executive director at the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, had been working alongside the mayor's office to provide more protections for the renters who are preyed upon by bad landlords. Ryan Martin, Indianapolis Star, "Indiana lawmakers advancing landlord-friendly legislation have ties to real estate," 28 Feb. 2020 New Zealand has discussed using a gene drive to eradicate the Australian brushtail possum, which preys on the nests of native birds and is currently controlled with poison traps. Jennifer Kahn, New York Times, "The Gene Drive Dilemma: We Can Alter Entire Species, but Should We?," 8 Jan. 2020 It was assumed the new wolves, some of which had preyed mostly on caribou before being moved to the island, would do just fine bringing down and eating moose. John Myers, Twin Cities, "Scientists say wolves relocated to Isle Royale National Park finding plenty to eat," 3 Dec. 2019 Another strategy is to maintain puddles of water as breeding habitats for aquatic insects and frogs, which also prey on crop pests. Debal Deb, Scientific American, "The Struggle to Save Heirloom Rice in India," 16 Oct. 2019 The real surprise came when the researchers got to the genome of the species Henneguya salminicola, which, as its name implies, spends part of its existence preying on salmon. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "Researchers find an animal without mitochondria," 26 Feb. 2020 This is a school that by its own account spent much of the last 40 years looking the other way as a handful of teachers preyed on their students. oregonlive, "Four more former Catlin Gabel School students file sexual misconduct suit, $9 million," 29 Jan. 2020 Weinstein's team was furious at the decision to include a juror who is writing a book about old men preying on younger women. John Gage, Washington Examiner, "'Limped to the court room': Harvey Weinstein accused of faking frailty as he abandons walker in rape trial," 22 Jan. 2020

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


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for prey


Middle English preie, from Anglo-French, from Latin praeda; akin to Latin prehendere to grasp, seize — more at get


Middle English, from Anglo-French preier, from Latin praedari, from praeda

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Time Traveler for prey

Time Traveler

The first known use of prey was in the 13th century

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Statistics for prey

Last Updated

21 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Prey.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Apr. 2020.

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More Definitions for prey


How to pronounce prey (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of prey

: an animal that is hunted or killed by another animal for food
: someone who is easily harmed or affected in a bad way by someone or something


\ ˈprā How to pronounce prey (audio) \

Kids Definition of prey

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : an animal that is hunted or killed by another animal for food
2 : a person that is helpless and unable to escape attack : victim


preyed; preying

Kids Definition of prey (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to hunt and kill for food The dogs survived by preying on small game.
2 : to have a harmful effect Fears prey on my mind.

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More from Merriam-Webster on prey

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for prey

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with prey

Spanish Central: Translation of prey

Nglish: Translation of prey for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of prey for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about prey

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