\ ˈprā \
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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from prey


preyer noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for prey

Synonyms: Noun

chase, quarry

Antonyms: Noun


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

One small nonprofit fell prey to this kind of scam and reached out to Mr. Peskay for help. Dennis Nishi, WSJ, "The Cybersecurity Mistakes Startups Make When They Get Big," 25 Nov. 2018 Alaska’s Board of Game, meanwhile, is charged with assuring large populations of huntable prey like caribou and moose. NBC News, "The fight over Alaska's hunting rules runs deeper than using doughnuts to bait bears," 14 June 2018 Alex Ovechkin went airborne, Evgeny Kuznetsov flapped his arms like a bird of prey and the Washington Capitals are flying high, just two wins away from winning the Stanley Cup. Stephen Whyno,, "Capitals flying high up 2-1 on Vegas in Stanley Cup Final," 2 June 2018 Habitat loss and the reduction of lions’ wild prey by the bush meat trade are forcing them into dangerous contact with humans and their livestock. National Geographic, "As Tigers Become Rarer, Poachers Are Targeting Lions," 1 June 2018 The only difference was that each chick of prey had a tiny hook protruding from its whiteness, and a pair of enormous dark, round eyes. Nanette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle, "For baby raptors, cuddly names may not fly — UC seeks suggestions," 24 May 2018 Or oversize moray eels waiting to sink their fangs into the soft flesh of unsuspecting human prey. Erik Heinrich,, "Kittiwake wreck dive and Stingray City are unforgettable adventures – even if you do get bit," 16 May 2018 Ads that deploy fallacious reasoning and misrepresent the purpose of studies prey on the hopes and fears of patients, potentially subverting the integrity of informed consent. Jonathan Kimmelman, STAT, "Cancer centers sell out science when they advertise clinical trials as treatment," 25 Apr. 2018 In the absence of prey, the mosquito assassin larvae will cannibalize each other. Kaila Contreras, Houston Chronicle, "Harris County breeds carnivorous plants, mosquito assassins to limit mosquito population," 7 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Honduras is largely dominated by murderous gangs that prey on families and businesses, and routinely sees homicide rates that are among the highest in the world. Fox News, "Honduran migrant caravan crosses Guatemala border, US-bound," 15 Oct. 2018 That a cardinal would prey on seminarians is abhorrent. WSJ, "Notable & Quotable: A Letter to Pope Francis," 31 Aug. 2018 People mainly from Honduras but also from El Salvador and Guatemala formed the caravan to Tijuana, seeking safety in numbers while crossing Mexico to avoid criminals and the fees demanded by the gangs that prey on migrants. Marko Alvarez, The Seattle Times, "Border patrol: More families cross illegally to San Diego," 4 Dec. 2018 In October 2017, Thompson alleges, as news of Weinstein’s history of preying on women was published in the New York Times, Weinstein’s attorney pressured her into turning over evidence of their client’s actions. Hunter Harris, The Cut, "Harvey Weinstein Is Facing Yet Another Class-Action Lawsuit," 1 June 2018 The suspect, Bruce McArthur, is accused of preying on adult men in a gay neighborhood of Toronto where Jon Riley had spent time. Fox News, "Focus turns to missing in Canadian serial killer case," 21 Mar. 2018 Single women preyed upon them at places like the Rosewood Sand Hill hotel in Menlo Park. Alexandra Wolfe, Marie Claire, "Inside the Androgynous Sexual Wasteland of Silicon Valley," 19 Dec. 2016 Gaslighting happens in personal relationships (think an abusive spouse or, in rarer cases, parent), in professional relationships (a manipulative boss or coworker preying on a subordinate), and even by public figures. Sarah Digiulio /, NBC News, "What is gaslighting? And how do you know if it's happening to you?," 13 July 2018 In addition, the pez diablo preys on the young of the native mojarra and has no natural predators. Tara Duggan,, "Bay Area men’s plan to market invasive fish from Mexico hits snag in U.S.," 2 July 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about prey

Statistics for prey

Last Updated

8 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for prey

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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 \

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on prey

What made you want to look up prey? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


excited commotion or publicity

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What did you just call me?! A Quiz

  • rows-of-various-emoji
  • If a member of the audience describes your speech as bombastic, does that person mean it is:
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!