prey


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prey on something

[for an animal] to feed on another animal as a matter of habit or preference. Owls prey on mice. Many birds prey on snakes.
See also: on, prey

prey (up)on someone or something

Fig. to take advantage of someone or something. (See also prey on something. Upon is formal and less commonly used than on.) The people of that island prey on tourists and do not give them good treatment. I really don't want to seem to prey upon your kindness.
See also: on, prey

fall prey to somebody/something

to be harmed by someone or something We worry that our children will fall prey to the influence of bad kids. Patients may fall prey to dishonest salespeople who say they can cure their pain.
Usage notes: sometimes used with verbs other than fall: These people are prey to superstition, disease, and hunger.
See also: fall, prey

prey on something

also prey upon something
to kill an animal in order to eat it Spiders prey on small flies and other insects. Seals often prey upon the same fish people are trying to catch.
Usage notes: said about animals that kill other animals for food
See also: on, prey

prey on somebody

also prey upon somebody
1. to commit a crime against someone Police are looking for street criminals who prey on tourists. Gangs that prey upon small business owners in the city's Chinatown may be spreading to the suburbs.
2. to have an effect on someone Guilt preyed on him for years after the accident.
Usage notes: sometimes said about something that has an effect on people's emotions: The ads prey on our fear of being alone.
See also: on, prey

prey on somebody's mind

if something preys on someone's mind, they worry about it for a long time I lost my temper with her the other day and it's been preying on my mind ever since.
See also: mind, on, prey

prey on

1. Plunder or pillage; also, make a profit at someone else's expense, victimize. For example, Vikings preyed on the coastal towns of England, or The rich have been preying on the poor for centuries. [Late 1500s]
2. Hunt, especially in order to eat, as in Their cat preys on all the rodents in the neighborhood. [c. 1600]
3. Exert a baneful or injurious effect, as in Guilt preyed on his mind. [c. 1700]
See also: on, prey

prey on

v.
1. To hunt and kill something for food: Owls prey on mice.
2. To exploit or make a profit at the expense of someone; take advantage of someone: Pickpockets often prey on unsuspecting tourists.
3. To exert a harmful or injurious effect on something or someone: Guilt preyed on him, and eventually led him to confess.
See also: on, prey

fall prey to

To be put into such a vulnerable position as to be at risk of harm, destruction, or invasion: a person who fell prey to swindlers; did not want the country to fall prey to terrorists.
See also: fall, prey
References in classic literature ?
They seldom traverse the underworld at night, for then it is that the great banths prowl the dim corridors seeking their prey.
So quickly did Tarzan of the Apes drag back his prey that Kulonga's cry of alarm was throttled in his windpipe.
With a loud hiss the creature abandoned its prey to turn upon me, but the spear, imbedded in its throat, prevented it from seizing me though it came near to overturning the skiff in its mad efforts to reach me.
The panther seemed debating the wisdom of defending his find, for he growled horribly as though warning Numa away from the prey.
To follow Norman of Torn where he may lead, to protect the poor and the weak, to lay down your lives in defence of woman, and to prey upon rich Englishmen and harass the King of England.
Personally, he had decided to join neither party, but to take advantage of the turmoil of the times to prey without partiality upon both.
Tarzan could imagine how old Numa's eyes were shining--how he was already sucking in his breath for the awful roar which would freeze his prey for the brief instant between the moment of the spring and the sinking of terrible fangs into splintering bones.
HOMER: Hunters of deep sea prey, have we caught anything?
It is not a nice way to die--alone, with one's hands fast bound, beneath the fangs and talons of a beast of prey.
But even some of these so-called epidemics appear to be due to parasitic worms, which have from some cause, possibly in part through facility of diffusion amongst the crowded animals, been disproportionably favoured: and here comes in a sort of struggle between the parasite and its prey.
I once, however, saw in a hot-house in Shropshire a large female wasp caught in the irregular web of a quite small spider; and this spider, instead of cutting the web, most perseveringly continued to entangle the body, and especially the wings, of its prey.
From then on, night and day, Buck never left his prey, never gave it a moment's rest, never permitted it to browse the leaves of trees or the shoots of young birch and willow.
I likened him to some great tiger, a beast of prowess and prey.
Verily, unto such a spirit it is preying, and the work of a beast of prey.
It was within half-an-hour of sunset when we entered the wood, and a little after sunset when we came into the plain: we met with nothing in the first wood, except that in a little plain within the wood, which was not above two furlongs over, we saw five great wolves cross the road, full speed, one after another, as if they had been in chase of some prey, and had it in view; they took no notice of us, and were gone out of sight in a few moments.