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

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 Caustic and prickly, Betty has a propensity for confrontation and is fearless when cornered. Dallas News, "Twists careen throughout ‘The Burn,’ a new novel about Dallas narcotics Detective Betty Rhyzyk," 11 Feb. 2020 As the West’s diplomatic confrontation with Saddam Hussein intensified in 2002, many observers and U.S. officials thought France, a prickly but generally dependable U.S. ally, would ultimately support a war or refrain from interference. Sebastian Rotella, Los Angeles Times, "Jacques Chirac, former French president and leading Iraq war opponent, dies at 86," 26 Sep. 2019 The negotiations, however, were expected to be prickly and will cover a variety of thorny issues, including rights of women, free speech, and changes to the country’s constitution., "The Taliban chief must approve the cease-fire decision but that was expected. The duration of the cease-fire was not specified but it was suggested it would last for 10 days. It was also not specified when the cease-fire would begin.," 31 Dec. 2019 The famously prickly coach stormed out of a press conference earlier Friday, refusing to answer questions about Brown. Al Saracevic,, "Patriots to Antonio Brown: Bye-bye," 20 Sep. 2019 Gabriella Fanuele is prickly and irascible as Jania, who works with the school’s special needs students. Sam Hurwitt, The Mercury News, "Review: No easy answers for a doomed school in ‘Exit Strategy’ in Berkeley," 10 Sep. 2019 Grief can make people prickly, and neither of these characters comes across at first as sympathetic., "In “Akin,” the Dublin-born author once again pairs a child and a caregiver in uncomfortable proximity. Only this time, that closeness comes during a trip to Nice, France, and the awkwardness arises from the two being strangers, although they are, as the title suggests, related.," 26 Sep. 2019 Allison thought that, although prickly, Buck had good intentions. Los Angeles Times, "Ed Buck was known for his abrasive behavior. But politicians still took his money," 17 Oct. 2019 But her tinny outrage and Tyler’s own dogmatic logorrhea begin to feel like exhibits in a playfully prickly riff on the inauthentic, the massaged and the cagily appropriated when telling stories. Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘The Plagiarists’ is an adventurous comic thumping," 29 Aug. 2019

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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Time Traveler for prickly

Time Traveler

The first known use of prickly was in 1578

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Statistics for prickly

Last Updated

16 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Prickly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for prickly


How to pronounce prickly (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for prickly

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with prickly

Spanish Central: Translation of prickly

Nglish: Translation of prickly for Spanish Speakers

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