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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

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 periodicals archive ?
When preying on bivalves, naticids often prefer to drill through the umbo, which is surprising given that this is typically the thickest region of the shell.
Feeding and growth rates of Polinices duplicatus preying on Mya arenaria at Barnstable Harbour, Massachusetts.
Mechanics of prey size preference in the gastropod Neverita didyma preying on the bivalve Ruditapes philippinarum.
notata preying upon neonate F virgata (< 24 h old crawlers) exhibited a type III functional response with an average consumption of 157.
notata preying on neonate nymphs exhibited a type III functional response, indicating that the predator can have a significant impact on this particular life stage.
A change in foraging behavior from crushing small prey items to peeling or prying open large prey items has also been observed as crab predators transition from small to larger prey items, such as Panopeus herbstii preying on Mercenaria mercenaria (Whetstone & Eversole 1981), or Hemigrapsus nudus preying on Littorina sitkana (Yarnada & Boulding 1998).
Likewise, the LR50 was larger for Pardosa preying on Hogna than it was for Pardosa cannibalism (Fig.
Density-dependent foraging and mutual interference in blue crabs preying upon infaunal clams.
Effect of temperature on the functional response and foraging behavior of the sand shrimp Crangon septemspinosa preying on juvenile winter flounder Pseudopleuronectes americanus.
edax forages strictly at night and, in terms of prey capture and web retention, was more efficient when preying on Lepidoptera.