1 [preen]
verb (used with object)
(of animals, especially birds) to trim or dress (feathers, fur, etc.) with the beak or tongue: The peacock preened itself on the lawn.
to dress (oneself) carefully or smartly; primp: The king preened himself in his elaborate ceremonial robes.
to pride (oneself) on an achievement, personal quality, etc.: He preened himself on having been graduated with honors.
verb (used without object)
to make oneself appear striking or smart in dress or appearance: No amount of careful preening will compensate for poor posture.
to be exultant or proud.

1480–90; late Middle English prene, variant of Middle English prunen, proynen (see prune3), perhaps by association with prenen, to stab, pierce (v. use, now dial., of prene preen2), from the pricking action of a bird's beak in preening

preener, noun
unpreened, adjective Unabridged


2 [preen]
noun Chiefly British Dialect.
a pin or brooch.

before 1000; Middle English prene, Old English prēon a pin; cognate with Old Norse prjōnn pin; akin to Dutch priem, German Pfreim awl Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To preen
World English Dictionary
preen1 (priːn)
1.  (of birds) to maintain (feathers) in a healthy condition by arrangement, cleaning, and other contact with the bill
2.  to dress or array (oneself) carefully; primp
3.  (usually foll by on) to pride or congratulate (oneself)
[C14 preinen, probably from prunen to prune³, influenced by prenen to prick, pin (see preen²); suggestive of the pricking movement of the bird's beak]

preen2 (priːn)
(Scot) a pin, esp a decorative one
[Old English prēon a pin; related to Middle High German pfrieme awl, Dutch priem bodkin]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Cite This Source
Word Origin & History

"to trim, to dress up," late 14c., perhaps a variation of prune (v.), or from O.Fr. poroindre "anoint before," and O.Fr. proignier "round off, prune." O.E. preon meant "to pin," and probably influenced this word. Due to the popularity of falconry, Words for bird activities were formerly much more precise
than today.
"Youre hawke proynith and not pikith and she prenyth not bot whan she begynnyth at hir leggys, and fetcheth moystour like oyle at hir taill." ["Book of St. Albans," 1486]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
Example sentences
Many birds produce odors detectable to people, and mutually preen plumage, which could transmit information.
The kiwi's distinctive scent comes from the wax it secretes to preen its feathers.
In a banquette, people slouch or preen against a high, velvety backdrop.
Indeed, much of the ambience in which these fictional senators work and preen has vanished.
Copyright © 2014, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature