Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Like this video? Subscribe to our free daily email and get a new idiom video every day!
a pricking in (one's) thumbs
old-fashioned, literary An intuition or premonition about something; a sense of foreknowledge about a situation, condition, or set of circumstances. A reference to a line in Shakespeare's Macbeth: "By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes." I have this pricking in my thumbs that the meeting isn't going to end in our favor. She felt the old, familiar pricking in her thumbs, a sense that something awful was about to happen to someone close to her.
a spare prick at a wedding
slang Someone who feels awkward and out of place at an event. I don't know anyone here, so I've been like a spare prick at a wedding, just standing in the corner by myself.
obsolete One who dissents from the teachings of any given denomination of the (Christian) church. "Autem" is an obsolete slang word for church, and "prick-eared" was a slang term often applied to puritans, who dissented from the Church of England. AI'd rather those autem prickears go and form their own church instead of trying to change our own.
See also: autem
be like a spare prick at a wedding
slang To feel awkward and out of place at an event. Primarily heard in UK. I don't know anyone here, so I've been like a spare prick at a wedding, just standing in the corner by myself.
kick against the pricks
To resist, protest, or fight against those in positions of authority. Our generation had to live through the Thatcher era—we were defined by kicking against the pricks!
never a rose without a/the prick
proverb There is rarely a good or positive thing, event, or circumstance that is not accompanied by something negative or unpleasant (i.e., just as a rose has thorns). A: "I can't believe the amount of taxes I have to pay on my lottery winnings!" B: "Never a rose without the prick, eh?"
policy of pin pricks
A government policy that is regarded as particularly petty. The phrase was first applied to tense relations between England and France at the end of the 19th century. How long do we have to suffer under this policy of pin pricks before they finally repeal it?
prick (one's) conscience
To cause one niggling feelings of guilt or remorse. It pricked my conscience to see my brother being led away in handcuffs, but I know it was the right thing to call the cops on him. Their promotional material is carefully crafted to prick the conscience of anyone who picks it up.
prick (one's) ears up
To suddenly pay close attention to something. Be sure to prick your ears up if anything about the case is mentioned. I can't help but prick my ears up if I hear someone say my name—even if they aren't talking about me.
1. To rise in sudden attention. Usually said of ears or, less commonly, heads. The dog's ears pricked up when it heard its owner's voice. My head pricked up at the mention of pay cuts.
2. To raise something, especially ears, quickly and suddenly in order to pay close attention. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "prick" and "up." The antelope pricked its ears up, sensing that a predator was near. Several sheep pricked up their heads as I approached.
3. By extension, to begin suddenly to pay close attention to something. Used in the forms "prick up one's ears" or "prick one's ears up." Be sure to prick up your ears if anything about the case is mentioned. I imagine several federal agencies will have pricked their ears up following the company's controversial announcement.
prick up (one's) ears
1. Literally, of an animal, to raise its ears, as upon hearing a sudden noise. The dogs pricked up their ears and started staring outside. I wonder what they heard.
2. To pay sudden close attention to something one overhears. Be sure to prick up your ears if anything about the case is mentioned. I can't help but prick up my ears if I hear someone say my name—even if they aren't talking about me.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
prick up its earsand prick up one's ears
Fig. [for an animal or a person] to become attentive. (The animal will adjust its ears toward the sound.) The sound made the dog prick its ears up. When Fred heard his name, he pricked up his ears. She pricked her ears up when she heard her name.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
prick up one's ears
Listen carefully, pay close attention, as in When she heard them mention her boyfriend she pricked up her ears. This term alludes to horses raising their ears at a sudden noise. [Late 1500s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
prick up your ears
If someone pricks up their ears, they start listening eagerly, because they suddenly hear an interesting sound or piece of information. Olivia pricked up her ears at the mention of James. Note: You can also say that someone's ears prick up. My ears pricked up when I heard her talk about food. Note: When animals such as dogs hear a sudden or unfamiliar noise, they prick up their ears; that is, their ears become more upright so that they can hear the sound better.
like a spare prick at a weddingBRITISH, INFORMAL, VERY RUDE
If someone is like a spare prick at a wedding, they are not needed and nobody pays attention to them. I sat on the edge of a bench feeling like a spare prick at a wedding. Note: `Prick' is a slang word for penis.
kick against the pricksmainly BRITISH, LITERARY, OLD-FASHIONED
If you kick against the pricks, you show your opposition to people in authority. He was just an awkward young man kicking against the pricks. Note: This expression occurs in the Bible (Acts 9:5). It refers to cattle kicking out when people try to drive them by jabbing them with sticks.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
kick against the prickshurt yourself by persisting in useless resistance or protest.
In the Bible, on the road to Damascus Saul heard the words: ‘It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks’ (Acts 9:5). The image is that of an ox or other beast of burden fruitlessly kicking out when it is pricked by a goad or spur.
prick up your ears1 (especially of a horse or dog) make the ears stand erect when on the alert. 2 (of a person) become suddenly attentive.
a spare prick at a weddinga person who is out of place or has no role in a particular situation. British vulgar slang
a pricking in your thumbsa premonition or foreboding.
This expression comes from a speech by the Second Witch in Shakespeare's Macbeth: ‘By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes’.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
ˌkick against the ˈpricksharm yourself by protesting when it is useless to do so: People in prison learn very quickly not to kick against the pricks. If they complain, the prison officers make their lives very difficult.This idiom comes from the Bible and refers to the fact that an animal such as an ox may kick when it is pricked (= pushed with a stick) to make it move, but will still have to move.
prick your ˈconscience,
your ˈconscience pricks youmake you feel guilty about something; feel guilty about something: Her conscience pricked her as she lied to her sister.
ˌprick up your ˈears,
your ˈears prick upstart to listen carefully: ‘And the winner is ...’ He pricked up his ears. ‘... Michael Poole.’
This expression refers to the way dogs, horses and other animals raise their ears when they listen with attention.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
1. n. the penis. (Usually objectionable.) He held his hands over his prick and ran for the bedroom.
2. n. a stupid or obnoxious male. (Usually objectionable.) You stupid prick! Get out of here!
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
prick up (one's) ears
To listen with attentive interest.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
prick up one's ears, to
To listen attentively. This term, which alludes to horses holding up their ears at a sudden noise, dates from the sixteenth century. Shakespeare used it in The Tempest (4.1): “Like unback’d colts, they prick’d their ears.”
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer