\ 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

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

An American Indian helps a broke and homeless family, once again prey to a poltergeist. Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV this week Sept. 15, 2019: ‘Alien,’ ‘Aliens’ and more," 13 Sep. 2019 While 250 species of fish in South America generate electricity, only electric eels use it to stun prey and for self-protection. Fox News, "World’s most powerful electric eel discovered, can generate 860-volt shock," 12 Sep. 2019 The craggy protrusions above the thick muck that covers the ocean floor serve as resting and hiding spots for some animals but disrupt the movement of others, making them easier prey. Warren Cornwall, Science | AAAS, "Mountains hidden in the deep sea are biological hot spots. Will mining ruin them?," 12 Sep. 2019 Fisheries rely on the abundance of their crop, and when a link in the food chain disappears, the loss upsets the ecosystem's balance, disrupting population sizes and the presence of natural predators and prey. Scottie Andrew, CNN, "The North Atlantic right whale will soon be extinct unless something is done to save it, researchers warn," 12 Sep. 2019 The Department of Natural Resources introduced salmon to the rivers to control the alewives, which are salmon’s preferred prey. Jennifer Billock, Smithsonian, "Milwaukee’s Secret Salmon Runs," 10 Sep. 2019 Without any ground-level prey on the island, the snakes learned to hunt in the treetops and strike at birds from the air. Caitlin Morton, Condé Nast Traveler, "Creepy Catacombs, Islands of Dolls, and 18 Other Terrifying Places for Thrill Seekers," 4 Sep. 2019 The leech uses its teeth to bite and siphon blood from its prey - usually frogs, fish and tadpoles, along with the occasional human, Phillips said. oregonlive, "New species of bloodsucking leech with 3 jaws, 59 teeth found in Maryland," 2 Sep. 2019 Conlan said many spiders spin small, undistinctive strands of webs tucked into corners to catch prey. Gig Conaughton, Ramona Sentinel, "It’s orb weaver spider season," 16 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Police said at the time that the killer appeared to be preying on prostitutes., "WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Three women shot in the head, each dumped a month a part — the 2006 killings scared Daytona Beach’s street people so badly that they memorized suspicious men’s license plate numbers and gave them to police. And then suddenly the slayings stopped.," 17 Sep. 2019 Police said at the time that the killer appeared to be preying on prostitutes. Terry Spencer, Washington Post, "Police: DNA links Florida man to ‘serial’ slayings of women," 16 Sep. 2019 Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, said Grewal is engaging in a political smear based on old stereotypes that gay people are more likely to prey on children. Alexei Koseff,, "Dem vs. Dem fight over gay-sex bill brings homophobia accusations," 20 Aug. 2019 The men 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. Sam Tabachnik, The Denver Post, "Hundreds of men say they were sexually abused during their time in the Boy Scouts. Now they want justice.," 4 Aug. 2019 Some warned zoning will backfire, with insects and diseases preying on crops’ untreated edges., "PARIS — When tractors laden with pesticides and other chemicals start spraying the vineyards that produce fruity Bordeaux wines, Marie-Lys Bibeyran’s phone starts to ring.," 12 Sep. 2019 Some warned zoning will backfire, with insects and diseases preying on crops’ untreated edges. Washington Post, "No-spray zones divide French farmers from anxious neighbors," 12 Sep. 2019 Cats are among the world’s most destructive invasive species, preying on upward of four billion birds and 22 billion mammals every year. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "Parasite Spread by House Cats Is Killing California’s Sea Otters," 30 Aug. 2019 The creature preyed on ocean dwellers long before dinosaurs ever walked the earth. Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY, "When 'Squawkzilla' roamed the earth, some parrots were the size of toddlers, study says," 8 Aug. 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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Statistics for prey

Last Updated

18 Oct 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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to be made up of

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