Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • intransitive verb To look or inquire closely, curiously, or impertinently.
  • transitive verb To raise, move, or force open with a lever.
  • transitive verb To obtain with effort or difficulty.
  • noun Something, such as a crowbar, that is used to apply leverage.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To look closely or with scrutinizing curiosity; hence, to search curiously or impertinently into any matter; peer; peep.
  • To observe; note.
  • To raise or move by means of a pry; prize; bring into a desired position or condition by means of a pry: as, to pry a box open.
  • noun A peeping glance; peering; curious or narrow inspection.
  • noun One who pries; a prier; an inquisitive, intrusive person (with allusion to Paul Pry, a fictitious name which, in its turn, was evidently suggested by this sense of the word).
  • noun A large lever employed to raise or move heavy substances; a prize.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun Curious inspection; impertinent peeping.
  • intransitive verb To peep narrowly; to gaze; to inspect closely; to attempt to discover something by a scrutinizing curiosity; -- often implying reproach.
  • noun Local, U. S. & Eng. A lever; also, leverage.
  • noun the pole which forms the prop of a hoisting gin, and stands facing the windlass.
  • transitive verb Local, U. S. & Eng. To raise or move, or attempt to raise or move, with a pry or lever; to prize.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A lever.
  • noun Leverage.
  • verb To use leverage to open or widen. (See also prise and prize.)
  • verb To look where one is not welcome; to be nosey.
  • verb To look closely and curiously at, peep
  • noun The act of prying
  • noun An excessively inquisitive person

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb to move or force, especially in an effort to get something open
  • noun a heavy iron lever with one end forged into a wedge
  • verb make an uninvited or presumptuous inquiry
  • verb be nosey
  • verb search or inquire in a meddlesome way

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English prien.]

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Alteration of prize.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

1800, back-formation from prize. ("lever"), construed as a plural noun or as a 3rd person singular verb.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English pryen, prien ("to look closely, peer into, pry, spy"), from Old English *prīwan, *prēowian (“to look narrowly, to squint at”), attested by Old English beprīwan, beprēwan ("to wink"). Akin to Old English *prēowot (“closing of the eyes”), attested only in combination, compare prēowthwīl ("blink or twinkling of an eye, moment"), Old English princ ("a wink"). More at prink.

Examples

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Comments

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  • But you read in a book

    That you got free in Boots

    There are lotions, there are potions

    You can take to hide your shame from all those prying eyes.

    (Lazy line painter Jane, by Belle and Sebastian)

    November 13, 2008

  • I presume the reference to Boots is to the pharmacy.

    November 13, 2008

  • Yes! The complete quotation is on thrush (I didn't realize I had already added it).

    November 13, 2008