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[prig] /prɪg/
a person who displays or demands of others pointlessly precise conformity, fussiness about trivialities, or exaggerated propriety, especially in a self-righteous or irritating manner.
Origin of prig1
1560-70; formerly, coxcomb; perhaps akin to prink
Related forms
priggish, adjective
priggishly, adverb
priggishness, noun
unpriggish, adjective
prude, puritan, bluenose.


[prig] /prɪg/
verb (used with object), prigged, prigging.
Chiefly British. to steal.
verb (used without object), prigged, prigging.
Scot. and North England. to haggle or argue over price.
British Informal. to beg or entreat; ask a favor.
Chiefly British. a thief.
1505-15; orig. thieves' cant; origin uncertain Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for prigs
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "Half the best scholars in our class are prigs," said Edgar discontentedly.

    Polly Oliver's Problem Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin
  • "But we're all prigs," Gilbert said once in reply to some one who sneered at Roger.

    Changing Winds St. John G. Ervine
  • In Chicago, you will hear that Boston is composed of nothing but prigs and précieuses ridicules.

  • Were we to attempt to do so it would make us prigs and prudes.

    Practical Ethics William DeWitt Hyde
  • Not only had he no education, but he was rather proud of the fact, affecting to despise bookish people as prigs and "high-brows."

    Bought and Paid For Arthur Hornblow
  • Come along, Spooney,' and the pair of prigs retire superciliously.

    The Book of Snobs William Makepeace Thackeray
  • At the Universities, Punch was evidently concerned by the multiplication of prigs.

  • John, again like all other prigs, was patient with those not so gifted as himself.

    Dodo's Daughter E. F. Benson
  • The prigs who potter about the great plains are pygmies dancing round a sleeping giant.

    What I Saw in America G. K. Chesterton
British Dictionary definitions for prigs


a person who is smugly self-righteous and narrow-minded
Derived Forms
priggery, priggishness, noun
priggish, adjective
priggishly, adverb
priggism, noun
Word Origin
C18: of unknown origin


verb prigs, prigging, prigged
another word for steal
another word for thief
Word Origin
C16: of unknown origin
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 prigs



"precisian in speech or manners," 1753, originally in reference to theological scruples (1704), of unknown origin; earlier appearances of the same word meaning "dandy, fop" (1670s), "thief" (c.1600; in form prigger recorded from 1560s) could be related, as could thieves' cant prig "a tinker" (1560s).

A p[rig] is wise beyond his years in all the things that do not matter. A p. cracks nuts with a steam hammer: that is, calls in the first principles of morality to decide whether he may, or must, do something of as little importance as drinking a glass of beer. On the whole, one may, perhaps, say that all his different characteristics come from the combination, in varying proportions, of three things--the desire to do his duty, the belief that he knows better than other people, & blindness to the difference in value between different things. ["anonymous essay," quoted in Fowler, 1926]
Related: Priggery.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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