\ˈthȯr-nē \
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

Recently, Wenk took on what may be the most thorny issue of all: Yellowstone’s surging visitation, up 45 percent since the turn of the century, surpassing 4 million per year. Elliott D. Woods, Outside Online, "Is the DOI Strong-Arming National Park Leaders?," 19 June 2018 Whether individual temperature records are valid is a thorny issue. Jason Samenow, Washington Post, "Two more countries may have set all-time high temperatures this week: Taiwan and United Arab Emirates," 11 July 2018 Meanwhile, Ruth and Debbie settle into the day-to-day rigors of making the show together while dealing with the thorny issues that continue to plague their friendship. Chuck Barney, Detroit Free Press, "TV highlights for the week of June 24-30," 23 June 2018 That’s a thorny issue for the Mittelstand—the thousands of small and midsize enterprises, often located in rural areas, that underpin German prosperity., "Germany Has Thrived With Engineering. But the Future Is Digital," 12 June 2018 That could present thorny issues for the future use of AI. Matt O'brien, The Christian Science Monitor, "Humanlike Google voice makes a hair appointment. Should we be concerned?," 10 May 2018 State aid for Hartford could become a thorny issue at the Capitol. Jenna Carlesso, Courant Community, "Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin's Budget Will Face New Scrutiny From Oversight Board," 15 Apr. 2018 With a subtle comic touch, Insecure has tackled such thorny issues as workplace discrimination, the clumsiness of well-meaning whites, gentrification, and gender and class identity. Julia Ioffe, The Atlantic, "Issa Rae: ‘I Never Identified as a Nerd’," 12 Apr. 2018 Agriculture has long been one of the thorniest issues in global trade. Anchorage Daily News, "Analysis: There are ‘nuggets of truth’ to what Trump says about trade," 10 June 2018

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

22 Sep 2018

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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 \
thornier; thorniest

Kids Definition of thorny

1 : full of or covered with thorns

2 : full of difficulties a thorny situation

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