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

Definition of prey

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 archaic : spoil, booty
2a : 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
3 : the act or habit of preying


preyed; preying

Definition of prey (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

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

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Other Words from prey


preyer noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for prey

Synonyms: Noun

chase, quarry

Antonyms: Noun


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Examples of prey in a Sentence


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

Potassium helps promote vigorous growth and hardiness, so a deficit may result in wimpy fruit or spindly plants that fall prey to pests and diseases. Arricca Elin Sansone, Country Living, "Here's How to Understand Fertilizer Numbers and Letters," 21 Mar. 2019 One reason why bites are rare is that most spiders use their venom exclusively or nearly exclusively on prey rather than for defense. Rob Dunn, Discover Magazine, "Our Attempts to Eradicate Insects are Just Making them Resistant to Pesticides," 16 Nov. 2018 The analysis of isotopes in beluga bone and teeth by University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers showed belugas formerly fed on prey that had little contact with freshwater. Washington Post, "Research shows diet shift of beluga whales in Alaska inlet," 17 June 2018 This is a classic pose for a hawk about to dive on prey. Mike Cason,, "Cavanaugh tops lieutenant governor poll; most undecided," 2 May 2018 Falcons are predators that feed on birds such as pigeons and starlings, flying down on their prey at high speed. Matt Campbell, kansascity, "Cameras capture endangered peregrine falcons perched near the Plaza, other high spots | The Kansas City Star," 28 Mar. 2018 Because their feathers are serrated, air passes through them quietly, giving them the ability to sneak up on their prey. Joan Hunt, Courant Community, "Rescue Owls Visit Wethersfield Library," 28 Mar. 2018 The fish devour native species and compete with them for prey, while reproducing at a rate that has frustrated attempts at controlling them. David Fleshler,, "Lionfish-killing contests help control them, study claims," 10 Jan. 2018 Businesses pay good money to prey on the fear of missing out, launching lightning deals that are sometimes only live for minutes at a time, achieving impulse sales that would be logistically impossible in brick-and-mortar stores. Rebekka Ayres, Teen Vogue, "Black Friday, Explained: A Complete History," 23 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Don’t let the bushy coats fool you: The stars of this documentary, arctic wolves, are shrewd and dangerous hunters who prey on musk oxen, animals much bigger than them. Andrew R. Chow, New York Times, "What’s on TV Wednesday: ‘American Crime Story’ and ‘Riverdale’," 17 Jan. 2018 He's been preying on the children of Greendale for years, preserving their souls in wax and using those figures to decorate his otherwise wholesome Santa display. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina," 18 Dec. 2018 In my opinion, Amazon is preying on the work-life balance issue that the military has, and feeds off the rigid order the Army teaches. Chavie Lieber, Vox, "The human costs of Black Friday, explained by a former Amazon warehouse manager," 20 Nov. 2018 But an opportunistic gray squirrel named Sciuridae, played with gleeful scene-stealing bravado by two-time Tony nominee Brad Oscar, preys on Scurius’ prejudices. Pam Kragen,, "La Jolla Playhouse's apocalyptic 'Squirrels' a dark, funny look at prejudice," 14 June 2018 For years, phone scammers have preyed on older adults by requesting their Medicare numbers, giving various reasons for doing so. Kaiser Health News,, "What to watch for with new Medicare cards arriving soon," 30 Apr. 2018 Elvis Presley preyed on 14-year-old girls while on tour. Morgan Jerkins, Teen Vogue, "R. Kelly and Other Powerful Men Have Always Manipulated Their Teen Fans," 9 Jan. 2019 Throughout the war, especially in border areas like Missouri or Unionist enclaves like western North Carolina, guerrillas preyed on soldiers and civilians alike, affecting, Mr. Sheehan-Dean estimates, at least a third of the Southern population. Drew Gilpin Faust, WSJ, "‘The War for the Common Soldier’ and ‘The Calculus of Violence’ Review: Billy Yank and Johnny Reb," 7 Dec. 2018 Little purposely preyed on troubled targets — drug addicts and prostitutes. Kyle Swenson, The Seattle Times, "Elderly prisoner claims he’s America’s deadliest serial killer with 90 victims. Police believe him.," 20 Nov. 2018

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 2a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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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Statistics for prey

Last Updated

19 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for prey

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

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More Definitions for prey



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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with prey

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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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likely to have or produce good results

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