prick up ears

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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.
See also: ear, prick, up
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

prick up (one's) ears

To listen with attentive interest.
See also: ear, prick, up
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.”
See also: prick, to, up
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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