often attributive
: a sharp rigid process on a plant
especially : one that is a short, indurated, sharp-pointed, and leafless modified stem compare prickle, spine
: any of various sharp spinose structures on an animal
: a woody plant bearing sharp impeding processes (such as prickles or spines)
especially : hawthorn
: something that causes distress or irritation
often used in the phrase thorn in one's side
: 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\
thorned adjective
thornless adjective
thornlike adjective

Example Sentences

your constant questions are a thorn in my side
Recent Examples on the Web Inside, angry protesters ransacked spaces where justices discuss cases and decisions, a deeply symbolic target as the court was seen as a thorn in the side of Mr. Bolsonaro. Whitney Eulich, The Christian Science Monitor, 9 Jan. 2023 The Freedom Caucus started several years ago as a thorn in the side to then Speaker John Boehner. WSJ, 5 Jan. 2023 Now, McConnell is being thanked for his service by Trump persisting, again, as a thorn in his side. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 17 Nov. 2022 And Varadarajan, the editor, was seen not only as a thorn in the government’s side but also a probable target of surveillance. Naomi Nix, Washington Post, 18 Oct. 2022 Star Wars fans likely remember that face from his time as a thorn in the side of Boba Fett in The Book of Boba Fett as Mok Shaiz's Majordomo, which came out earlier this year. Evan Romano, Men's Health, 22 Sep. 2022 Top Republicans, like former House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, often see the caucus as a thorn in their side. Tyler Olson, Fox News, 6 Aug. 2022 Still, Trilith describes inflation and supply chain disruptions as a thorn in its side, albeit an expensive one, rather than a crisis forcing major changes to operations. Winston Cho, The Hollywood Reporter, 27 June 2022 The compromise laid bare the increasing difficulty of reaching consensus among EU leaders when important national interests are in play — and the ways in which Hungary has emerged as thorn in the bloc’s side. Lorne Cook And Samuel Petrequin, Anchorage Daily News, 31 May 2022 See More

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near thorn

Cite this Entry

“Thorn.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/thorn. Accessed 28 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition


: a woody plant bearing sharp processes (as prickles or spines)
especially : hawthorn
: a sharp stiff process on a plant
especially : a stem modified into a short, stiff, and leafless sharp point
: something or someone that causes distress or irritation
often used in the phrase thorn in one's side
thorned adjective
thornless adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on thorn

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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