\ ˈthȯr-nē How to pronounce thorny (audio) \
thornier; thorniest

Definition of thorny

1 : full of thorns
2 : full of difficulties or controversial points : ticklish a thorny problem

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Other Words from thorny

thorniness noun

Examples of thorny in a Sentence

stay out of the thorny brambles unless you want a ton of scratches

Recent Examples on the Web

The case is the focus of a HBO documentary debuting on Tuesday that explores the thorny legal questions, the teen’s twisted relationship and Carter’s own mental health problems. Washington Post, "US high court urged to take up texting suicide appeal," 9 July 2019 In an action that could place 10 potentially lucrative patent applications from UC Berkeley in jeopardy, the U.S. patent office has reopened the thorny question of who invented a key CRISPR gene editing technology first. Michael Hiltzik,, "In possible blow to UC, patent office revisits conflict over CRISPR invention," 27 June 2019 Prosecuting Trump would raise thorny questions about American democracy as well. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Ex-President Trump on Trial," 18 June 2019 This of course raises a thorny question: which central authority would represent Taiwan, a country over which China has long claimed sovereignty? Mary Hui, Quartz, "Everything you need to know about Hong Kong’s extradition law," 11 June 2019 There is still no plan for resolving the underlying conflict and its many thorny issues: borders, refugees, the status of Jerusalem, or the very notion of Palestinian statehood. The Economist, "An underwhelming start to the “ultimate” Israeli-Palestinian deal," 27 June 2019 Nor have the candidates wrestled with the thorny issue of culpability and victimhood. Michael Tanner, National Review, "The Wrenching Reparations Question," 26 June 2019 That’s why experts will gather in Kinshasa on 28 June to discuss a thorny issue: whether, and how, to deploy a second vaccine to supplement the limited supplies of the Merck shot. Kai Kupferschmidt, Science | AAAS, "As Ebola outbreak rages, plan to test second vaccine sparks debate," 25 June 2019 When a second group of Democrats debate a day later, the president will be meeting with world leaders to discuss thorny issues such as Iran, North Korea and global trade. Michael Collins, USA TODAY, "Republicans want Donald Trump to ignore the Democratic debate fray. He’s making no promises.," 25 June 2019

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

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for thorny

Last Updated

14 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for thorny

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

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More Definitions for thorny



English Language Learners Definition of thorny

: having a lot of thorns
: very difficult or complicated


\ ˈthȯr-nē How to pronounce thorny (audio) \
thornier; thorniest

Kids Definition of thorny

1 : full of or covered with thorns
2 : full of difficulties a thorny situation

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More from Merriam-Webster on thorny

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with thorny

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for thorny

Spanish Central: Translation of thorny

Nglish: Translation of thorny for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of thorny for Arabic Speakers

Comments on thorny

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


an act or instance of editing or removing

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