spi·​nous ˈspī-nəs How to pronounce spinous (audio)
: spiny sense 2
a spinous plant
: difficult or unpleasant to handle or meet : thorny

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English writers have been associating spines with things that are difficult to take since at least 1586, when the English dramatist Thomas Kyd used the word spiny to describe his "cares." "Spinous" took on its figurative use in 1638, when the phrase "spinous criticisms" appeared. "Thorny explications" followed shortly after that, in 1653. Emily Dickinson gets the credit for giving the word prickly its "troublesome" sense. In her 1862 poem that begins "The Child's faith is new," she wrote, "To hold mistaken / His pretty estimates / Of Prickly Things."

Examples of spinous in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web There is a possibility of spinous process fracture, a break along the vetebrae that generally heals without long-term damage. Profootballdoc, sandiegouniontribune.com, 29 Sep. 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'spinous.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of spinous was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near spinous

Cite this Entry

“Spinous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spinous. Accessed 23 May. 2024.

Medical Definition


spi·​nous ˈspī-nəs How to pronounce spinous (audio)
: slender and pointed like a spine
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