a. An animal hunted or caught by another for food: The leopard carried its prey into a tree.
b. The collection of animals typically hunted and eaten by a predator: the acoustic location of prey by barn owls.
a. An object or victim of attack: ships that became the prey of pirates.
b. One that is subjected to or afflicted with something: was prey to depression.
c. One that is deceived or taken advantage of by another: easy prey for swindlers.
a. The act or practice of preying.
b. Plunder; booty.
intr.v. preyed, prey·ing, preys
1. To hunt, catch, or eat as prey: Owls prey on mice.
2. To victimize or make a profit at someone else's expense: swindlers who prey upon the weak.
3. To plunder or pillage: Vikings preying on coastal settlements.
4. To exert a baneful or injurious effect: Remorse preyed on his mind.
[Middle English preie, from Old French, from Latin praeda, booty, prey; see ghend- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.