\ 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

Both parties are prey to a decentralized economy that has monetized teen-age anxiety, depression, and general fragility. Doreen St. Félix, The New Yorker, "“Jawline,” Reviewed: A Chilling Look at the Making of a Teen Influencer," 27 Aug. 2019 Wild animals, of course, usually are drawn into established residential areas in search of prey. Patrick May, The Mercury News, "Not your neighborhood dog: Coyote sighting near San Bruno school the latest Bay Area wildlife appearance," 15 Aug. 2019 Larger prides defend smaller, but higher-quality, territories around valuable water sources with lots of prey. Christine Dell'amore, National Geographic, "This is the only place on Earth where lions live alone," 9 Aug. 2019 Hernández says the then 14-year-old boy, who was broke and no longer living with his parents, was easy prey for a Mario Enrique Miranda Palacios, a music producer and talent promoter who offered financial support and help promoting his career. Rafael Romo, CNN, "Mexican singer says he was trafficked and abused as a teenager," 3 Aug. 2019 The die-off followed strong changes in ocean conditions in the mid-1990s, suggesting that warmer water patterns affected the availability of prey, but scientists were often unable to perform necropsies, Moore said. Gene Johnson, The Seattle Times, "Feds to investigate spike in gray whale deaths on West Coast," 4 June 2019 King snakes will eat copperheads and lots of other prey. Shelia Poole, ajc, "7 most common myths about snakes," 5 June 2018 All of the predators found trapped in the tar alongside their potential prey creates an intriguing portrait of the Ice Age animals that are now extinct. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Fossils in La Brea Tar Pits reveal why coyotes still exist, but not saber-toothed cats," 5 Aug. 2019 When a fish swims over to investigate, the turtle clamps down its jaws on its prey. Nara Schoenberg,, "‘A face only its mother could love’: Ugly, cranky, endangered alligator snapping turtles get boost from Illinois students, who raise and release them into the wild," 27 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Pennywise preys on these personal demons, in ways that are much more elemental than before. Nick Romano,, "It Chapter Two," 3 Sep. 2019 Dozens of armed groups hide in the bush, preying on civilians. The Economist, "How do you reform a country where gunmen torch Ebola clinics?," 2 Aug. 2019 Some deepwater sharks are primarily known from submersibles, such as the giant sixgill shark, which feeds mainly on carrion but probably also preys on other animals in the deep sea. Gavin Naylor, The Conversation, "Shark Week looms, but don’t panic," 25 July 2019 The scam's underlying logic is straightforward, preying on consumers' fears of running afoul of the law. Brian Fung, CNN, "FTC reports a sharp increase in phone scams from criminals impersonating IRS, Social Security," 1 July 2019 The story of the lascivious Duke, who preys on dying courtesan-entertainer Satine, who in turn falls for starving writer-artist Christian, is the lowbrow framework on which the film suspended its anachronistic pop score. Peter Marks, Washington Post, "Will you love ‘Moulin Rouge!’ as a stage musical? Well, you’ll certainly fall in like.," 25 July 2019 Prosecutors allege Stevens and Ephrem make their living by preying on elderly people and then using the money to support lavish vacations, designer clothes and shoes, expensive cigars and gambling addictions., "Convicted swindler ordered to ‘learn to read and write’ while awaiting trial in alleged $2.5 million scam," 10 July 2019 Men who preyed on younger women were called letches, cradle-robbers, dogs. Jill Ciment, Harper's magazine, "Then Again," 10 June 2019 However, Holocaust researchers have also collected ample evidence of Polish villagers who murdered Jews fleeing the Nazis, or Polish blackmailers who preyed on the Jews for financial gain and stole their property. Aron Heller, The Seattle Times, "Israel hosts east European leaders after summit scrapped," 19 Feb. 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 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

6 Sep 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

Comments on prey

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recurring in steady succession

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