prick·​ly | \ ˈpri-k(ə-)lē How to pronounce prickly (audio) \
pricklier; prickliest

Definition of prickly

1 : full of or covered with prickles especially : distinguished from related kinds by the presence of prickles
2 : marked by prickling : stinging a prickly sensation
3a : troublesome, vexatious prickly issues
b : easily irritated had a prickly disposition

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Other Words from prickly

prickliness noun

Synonyms for prickly


irritating, itchy, scratchy

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Examples of prickly in a Sentence

The plant's leaves are prickly. she tried to ignore the feel of the prickly grass against her skin

Recent Examples on the Web

Fleabag has perhaps stolen a little of that final-season momentum from Amazon stablemate Catastrophe, another magnificently prickly small-batch import, though one with two previous Emmy nominations on its CV. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, "Emmys: Why Voters Should Give 'Veep,' 'Big Bang Theory' and Other Ending Series One Final Look," 14 June 2019 The disciplinary proceedings arising from the Switzerland-Serbia game, however, present a more prickly problem for FIFA. James Montague, New York Times, "Politics Ensnare Mohamed Salah and Switzerland at the World Cup," 24 June 2018 The most visceral discussions in my focus groups centered on integration—an even pricklier topic than border control. Sophia Gaston, WSJ, "Europe’s Leaders Need a New Way of Talking About Immigration," 6 Sep. 2018 Poland risks becoming like Turkey, a prickly ally important only because of its strategic location, says a Washington insider. The Economist, "Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party is doing lasting damage," 21 Apr. 2018 One of them, the Alejandro Adams, based in California’s Bay Area, produced work during this period that was too prickly and individual to categorize under any rubric. Glenn Kenny, New York Times, "Spike Lee’s ‘Pass Over,’ an Offbeat Melding of Cinema and Theater," 11 May 2018 The cardón grows as tall as 60 feet, its prickly arms providing homes for desert birds and insects. Rosemary Mcclure,, "Escape for a weekend to a Mexican expedition cruise brimming with sea vistas and animal antics," 15 Mar. 2018 With its slightly prickly fibers, the abaca rug from Belgian firm Limited Edition adds another note of coarseness, while the custom velvet sofa and bronze coffee table ooze sensual luxury. Ian Phillips, WSJ, "A Dull New Apartment Gets an Infusion of Personality," 8 Nov. 2018 Israelis often identify themselves with the sabra, the cactus fruit that has a prickly exterior and a soft interior and pride themselves on their frankness and shameless audacity. Ruth Eglash, The Seattle Times, "Monica Lewinsky walks off the stage at a Jerusalem conference when asked about Bill Clinton," 4 Sep. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'prickly.' 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 prickly

1578, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for prickly

Last Updated

22 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for prickly

The first known use of prickly was in 1578

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More Definitions for prickly



English Language Learners Definition of prickly

: having many sharp points
: caused or seeming to be caused by something that has many small, sharp points
: causing a prickly feeling on your skin


prick·​ly | \ ˈpri-klē How to pronounce prickly (audio) \
pricklier; prickliest

Kids Definition of prickly

1 : having small sharp points a prickly cactus
2 : having or causing slight stinging pain a prickly sensation prickly cold

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More from Merriam-Webster on prickly

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with prickly

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for prickly

Spanish Central: Translation of prickly

Nglish: Translation of prickly for Spanish Speakers

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