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

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 But Khalilzad has had a prickly relationship with Pakistan and has often accused Islamabad of fomenting violence in Afghanistan by supporting the Taliban. Kathy Gannon, The Seattle Times, "US envoy on Afghan peace takes his mission to Pakistan," 9 Oct. 2018 Their relationship was perceived as prickly in those years. Childs Walker,, "Bob Baffert stares down all-time records with his latest Preakness favorite, Justify," 17 May 2018 Image The core elements of the premise — rogue tentacles, prickly villains, a found family and swoon-worthy romances — are familiar to aficionados of genre entertainment. Maureen Ryan, New York Times, "A Cult Show’s Recipe for Success: Whiskey, Twitter and Complex Women," 6 July 2018 The impact of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide on June 8 was profound in the restaurant community, where the chef/raconteur was revered for his sense of adventure and his prickly opinions. Michael Klein,, "Anthony Bourdain remembered by Philly food community," 25 June 2018 Everyone applauded Bou Lou's striking packaging — tall 16-ounce black cans adorned with the Strange Music logo, prickly pineapples and slithering snakes. Sarah Gish, kansascity, "Bou Lou taste test: We tried Tech N9ne and Boulevard's new pineapple and coconut beer," 14 June 2018 For better and for worse, their parenting style matches their prickly relationship. Andrew Fleming, New York Times, "Review: A Child Adds a Layer to Gay Couple’s ‘Ideal Home’," 28 June 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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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

Comments on prickly

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


to move or proceed with twists and turns

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