\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

Judge Kelly ruled narrowly, avoiding the thornier question of whether White House had violated the First Amendment. Byron Tau, WSJ, "Judge Grants CNN’s Motion to Restore Jim Acosta’s White House Press Pass," 16 Nov. 2018 Perhaps the thorniest question is where the tents will be placed. Cynthia Hubert, sacbee, "Are giant tents the answer to Sacramento's homeless crisis? Observers aren't so sure | The Sacramento Bee," 27 May 2018 That means running headlong into some of thorniest questions about driverless taxi services. Aarian Marshall, WIRED, "California's Heavy-Handed Plan to Regulate the Self-Driving Car Biz," 24 May 2018 McGahn’s job was to tackle and advise on any thorny legal issues facing the office of the presidency, though McGahn’s biggest contribution will likely be his aggressive push to get Trump’s judicial nominees confirmed. Jen Kirby, Vox, "Pat Cipollone is Trump’s new White House counsel," 17 Oct. 2018 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

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

1 Dec 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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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

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