\ 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 As a prey species, groundhogs actively avoid humans. Megan Stein, Country Living, "A New Viral Letter Is Calling for Punxsutawney Phil to 'Retire' From Groundhog Day," 31 Jan. 2020 Most huskies have a strong prey drive and are not great with cats, small dogs or small children. oregonlive, "Dear Annie: To replace our family dog, should I adopt or shop?," 18 Jan. 2020 Most huskies have a strong prey drive and are not great with cats, small dogs or small children. cleveland, "Dear Annie: I’m having a hard time finding a new dog to replace our beloved family pet," 18 Jan. 2020 The total populations of prey species can obviously take some predation, but bird populations in North America, for instance, have fallen by three billion, or nearly 30 percent since 1970. Wes Siler, Outside Online, "How Many Dead Animals Is 1 Billion Dead Animals?," 10 Jan. 2020 Wolves regulate the number of prey species, including deer and elk, which allows for greater plant growth and diversity, according to a 2010 paper by Daniel S. Licht, a wildlife biologist with the National Park Service, and three other scientists. Debra Utacia Krol, azcentral, "Competing interests leave Mexican gray wolf recovery efforts at a crossroads," 30 Dec. 2019 Koala detection dogs need to be disinterested in people, hyper-focused and without a prey drive. Kelli Bender,, "Bear the Detection Dog is Sniffing Out and Saving Koalas Injured in Australia's Bushfires," 19 Nov. 2019 Some breeds of dogs (including mixed breeds) have very strong prey drives that may be deadly for small pets that move quickly. Iris Katz,, "Pet Wise: Many factors to consider when thinking about adding a new pet," 16 Nov. 2019 If there are too many predators, the dwindling number of prey animals in turn has ramifications for flora, which then affects soil cover, ground water, and more. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "11,000+ Scientists Declare Climate Emergency," 5 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Epstein is said to have preyed on the financial needs of girls and women by promising them career opportunities and educational assistance. Washington Post, "Lawsuit says Jeffrey Epstein trafficked and abused girls on his private island as recently as 2018," 16 Jan. 2020 The men plan to sue the organization and are demanding that the Boy Scouts be held accountable for hiding abusers from the criminal justice system and enabling them to keep preying on young men. Tynin Fries, The Denver Post, "The Denver Post’s best long reads of 2019 that are worth your time," 25 Dec. 2019 Bombshell director Jay Roach notes that the company's secretive corporate culture, enforced by nondisclosure agreements, enabled Ailes to prey on female employees with impunity. Hugh Hart, Fortune, "Whistleblower Cinema Is Back in a Big Way," 16 Dec. 2019 Saturday's visitors will be eager to prey on the fragile spirit of their weekend opponents, knowing a victory at the Emirates would move them to within a point of the Gunners., "Arsenal vs Wolves Preview: Where to Watch, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News," 31 Oct. 2019 The former Staten Island Little League coach who allegedly molested at least four teenage boys back in the 1970s was accused Monday of preying on a young man who played on his New Jersey basketball team. Corky Siemaszko, NBC News, "Coach accused of abusing New York little leaguers also allegedy preyed on Jersey hoops player, lawyer," 2 Dec. 2019 Sea stars play an important role in their ecosystem, preying on native purple urchins (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) and keeping their numbers in check. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Voracious Purple Sea Urchins Are Ravaging Kelp Forests on the West Coast," 26 Oct. 2019 There have been protests under the hashtag #ENDSARS after officers of the police unit were accused of preying on citizens, and in some cases torturing them. Aisha Salaudeen, CNN, "Nigeria's tech community launches a campaign against alleged police harassment," 2 Oct. 2019 Picking up from the first film’s clever (and financially gutsy!) elliptical sign-off, this one jumps ahead 27 years to show us that demonic Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård, again supremely creepy) is back preying on the fears of sleepy Derry’s citizenry. Tom Russo,, "‘It Chapter Two’ is just as scary as chapter one," 5 Sep. 2019

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

8 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Prey.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Feb. 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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