prick up one's ears

prick up (one's) ears

To suddenly pay close attention to something. 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

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]
See also: ear, prick, up

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, up