\ 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

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 There are thorny issues in health care — trust, structural barriers, affordability — that tech alone can’t solve. Mohana Ravindranath, STAT, 3 July 2022 The contrast between the images these systems create and the thorny ethical issues is stark for Julie Carpenter, a research scientist and fellow in the Ethics and Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Rachel Metz, CNN, 30 June 2022 The church also has published essays on a range of thorny historical and doctrinal issues from polygamy and race to its belief in Heavenly Mother and humanity’s godlike potential. Kaitlyn Bancroft, The Salt Lake Tribune, 17 July 2022 The others — all world premieres — latch onto thorny issues with varying degrees of success. Peter Marks, Washington Post, 15 July 2022 The issue of security is, however, a thorny one for the U.K. government. Phil Boucher,, 18 Feb. 2022 The issue of China, which is both a tourist destination and major US trading partner is a thorny one for Brownback. Michael Goldstein, Forbes, 24 Dec. 2021 The question is a thorny one because vaccinations themselves have become somewhat controversial. Christal Hayes, USA TODAY, 11 Dec. 2021 Women’s basketball star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges in court outside Moscow on Thursday, hoping to secure a more lenient sentence, her lawyers said, in what has become a thorny geopolitical fight between the U.S. and Russia. Evan Gershkovich, WSJ, 7 July 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of thorny

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

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

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Dictionary Entries Near thorny

thorn tree


thorny acacia

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Last Updated

3 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Thorny.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for thorny


\ 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

More from Merriam-Webster on thorny

Nglish: Translation of thorny for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of thorny for Arabic Speakers


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