an animal hunted or seized for food, especially by a carnivorous animal.
a person or thing that is the victim of an enemy, a swindler, a disease, etc.; gull.
the action or habit of preying: a beast of prey.
Archaic. booty or plunder.
verb (used without object)
to seize and devour prey, as an animal does (usually followed by on or upon ): Foxes prey on rabbits.
to make raids or attacks for booty or plunder: The Vikings preyed on coastal settlements.
to exert a harmful or destructive influence: His worries preyed upon his mind.
to victimize another or others (usually followed by on or upon ): loan sharks that prey upon the poor.

1200–50; Middle English preye < Old French < Latin praeda booty, prey; akin to prehendere to grasp, seize (see prehension)

preyer, noun
unpreying, adjective

pray, prayer, prey.

2. dupe, target. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
prey (preɪ)
1.  an animal hunted or captured by another for food
2.  a person or thing that becomes the victim of a hostile person, influence, etc
3.  beast of prey an animal that preys on others for food
4.  bird of prey a bird that preys on others for food
5.  an archaic word for booty
6.  to hunt or seize food by killing other animals
7.  to make a victim (of others), as by profiting at their expense
8.  to exert a depressing or obsessive effect (on the mind, spirits, etc); weigh heavily (upon)
[C13: from Old French preie, from Latin praeda booty; see predatory]

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

mid-13c., "animal hunted for food," from O.Fr. preie "booty, animal taken in the chase" (1140), from L. præda "booty, plunder, game hunted," earlier præheda, related to prehendere "to grasp, seize" (see prehensile). The verb meaning "to plunder, pillage, ravage"
is attested from late 13c., from O.Fr. preer, earlier preder (c.1040), from L.L. prædare. Its sense of "to kill and devour" is attested from mid-14c.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
The slow-moving creature never chases his prey but only edges towards it.
According to a report published today in the journal Nature, owls use mammal
  dung to lure prey.
Most fish use suction to gulp down prey.
Many still consider them to be vermin – pests which destroy livestock and
  compete with human hunters for desirable prey.
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