noun, often attributive
\ˈthȯrn \

Definition of thorn 

1a : a sharp rigid process on a plant especially : one that is a short, indurated, sharp-pointed, and leafless modified stem — compare prickle, spine

b : any of various sharp spinose structures on an animal

2 : a woody plant bearing sharp impeding processes (such as prickles or spines) especially : hawthorn

3 : something that causes distress or irritation often used in the phrase thorn in one's side

4 : the runic letter þ used in Old English and Middle English to represent either of the fricatives \th\ or \t͟h\ and in Icelandic to represent \th\

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Other Words from thorn

thorned \ˈthȯrnd \ adjective
thornless \ˈthȯrn-​ləs \ adjective
thornlike \ˈthȯrn-​ˌlīk \ adjective

Examples of thorn in a Sentence

your constant questions are a thorn in my side

Recent Examples on the Web

Molly Edwards, who attended Dr. Friedman’s course two years ago, said students looked closely at the difference between thorns, spines and prickles. Douglas Belkin, WSJ, "Rhododendron? Hydrangea? America Doesn’t Know Anymore," 14 Aug. 2018 Since his election, the president has often acted as a thorn in Republicans’ side, frequently breaking with GOP dogma while attacking members of his own party, including McConnell. Washington Post, "Analysis: GOP’s long-term Supreme Court strategy pays off," 29 June 2018 Urchek, 30 and bearded, wore a hiking hat flourished with a turkey feather and a honey locust thorn, with a canvas bag slung over his right hip. Adrian Higgins, sacbee, "Spend time with mushroom experts – they’ll grow on you," 8 June 2018 Douma and the sprawling eastern Ghouta region near the capital, Damascus, had been under rebel control since 2012 and was a thorn in the side of Assad's government, threatening his seat of power with missiles and potential advances for years. Vladimir Isachenkov,, "Russia accuses Britain of staging alleged chemical attack in Syria," 13 Apr. 2018 The Spaniards were simply outplayed and overpowered by a determined Roma side, with goals from Edin Dzeko (a constant thorn in the side of Gerard Pique) and Daniele De Rossi preceding Kostas Manolas' dramatic winner in the 82nd minute., "Lionel Messi & Andres Iniesta Make UEFA Champions League History Despite Harrowing Loss to Roma," 11 Apr. 2018 Finally, at Hulu Comcast can remain a thorn in Disney’s side. Elizabeth Winkler, WSJ, "Comcast’s Revenge: Never Sell Hulu," 7 Oct. 2018 Nearly everything in the thicket is edible to the mega-herbivores such as elephants and so nearly everything has evolved thorns and spikes in a kind of vegetarian arms race. New York Times, "Where Female Elephants Without Tusks Roam — and Poachers Stay Away," 16 June 2018 Hills are dotted with huge cacti whose large thorns were used by women as knitting needles and its wood used for building houses. Maita Barrenechea, Town & Country, "How to Plan a Trip to South America," 5 Oct. 2016

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

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for thorn

Middle English, from Old English; akin to Old High German dorn thorn, Sanskrit tṛṇa grass, blade of grass

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Statistics for thorn

Last Updated

11 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for thorn

The first known use of thorn was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for thorn


\ˈthȯrn \

Kids Definition of thorn

1 : a hard sharp leafless point on the stem or branch of a plant (as a rose bush)

2 : a bush or tree that has thorns

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More from Merriam-Webster on thorn

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with thorn

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for thorn

Spanish Central: Translation of thorn

Nglish: Translation of thorn for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of thorn for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about thorn

Comments on thorn

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the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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