8 Wintry Words to Defrost Your Vocabulary


[bris-uh l] /ˈbrɪs əl/
one of the short, stiff, coarse hairs of certain animals, especially hogs, used extensively in making brushes.
anything resembling these hairs.
verb (used without object), bristled, bristling.
to stand or rise stiffly, like bristles.
to erect the bristles, as an irritated animal (often followed by up):
The hog bristled up.
to become rigid with anger or irritation:
The man bristled when I asked him to move.
to be thickly set or filled with something suggestive of bristles:
The plain bristled with bayonets. The project bristled with difficulties.
to be visibly roused or stirred (usually followed by up).
verb (used with object), bristled, bristling.
to erect like bristles:
The rooster bristled his crest.
to furnish with a bristle or bristles.
to make bristly.
before 1000; Middle English bristel, equivalent to brist (Old English byrst bristle, cognate with German Borste, Old Norse burst) + -el diminutive suffix
Related forms
bristleless, adjective
bristlelike, adjective
nonbristled, adjective
unbristled, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for bristles
  • The church bristles at discussion of such things, quite often to the extent of bringing in its lawyers.
  • If the crabs would stand still, the symbiotic bacteria growing between its bristles could locally deplete either resource.
  • They inhabit the bristles of our toothbrushes, the bristles of our whiskers, and the bristles of our other areas.
  • These segments are covered in setae, or small bristles, which the worm uses to move and burrow.
  • The banter bristles, even if their efforts are fallible.
  • So the firm understandably bristles at the public perception that partners are salivating for their multi-million dollar pay-offs.
  • The president visibly bristles if people turn up to meetings a moment late.
  • The polymer's two-nanometer-long bristles attract water molecules, which create a barrier against pore-clogging oils and proteins.
  • Some ants' legs were extended by gluing on pig bristles, while other ants' legs were severed below the knee.
  • In other milkweed species, this hook attaches to the bristles or appendages of insects.
British Dictionary definitions for bristles


any short stiff hair of an animal or plant
something resembling these hair: toothbrush bristle
when intr, often foll by up. to stand up or cause to stand up like bristles: the angry cat's fur bristled
(intransitive) sometimes foll by up. to show anger, indignation, etc: she bristled at the suggestion
(intransitive) to be thickly covered or set: the target bristled with arrows
(intransitive) to be in a state of agitation or movement: the office was bristling with activity
(transitive) to provide with a bristle or bristles
Derived Forms
bristly, adjective
Word Origin
C13 bristil, brustel, from earlier brust, from Old English byrst; related to Old Norse burst, Old High German borst
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for bristles



Old English byrst "bristle," with metathesis of -r-, from Proto-Germanic *bursti- (cf. Middle Dutch borstel, German borste), from PIE *bhrsti- from root *bhars- "point, bristle" (cf. Sanskrit bhrstih "point, spike"). With -el, diminutive suffix.


c.1200 (implied in past participle adjective bristled) "set or covered with bristles," from bristle (n.). Meaning "become angry or excited" is 1540s, from the way animals show fight. Related: Bristling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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