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 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.
  • To look closely or with scrutinizing curiosity; hence, to search curiously or impertinently into any matter; peer; peep.
  • To observe; note.

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

  • noun Curious inspection; impertinent peeping.
  • 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.
  • intransitive verb To peep narrowly; to gaze; to inspect closely; to attempt to discover something by a scrutinizing curiosity; -- often implying reproach.
  • 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.

  • 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
  • noun A lever.
  • noun Leverage.
  • verb To use leverage to open or widen. (See also prise and prize.)

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


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

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.

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.


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word pry.


  • Oakland police spokeswoman Cynthia Perkins said the protesters were able to get inside the building using what she termed a "pry tool." Front Page 2012

  • Brissenden gave no explanation of his long absence, nor did Martin pry into it.

    Chapter 35 2010

  • Brissenden gave no explanation of his long absence, nor did Martin pry into it.

    Chapter 35 1908

  • They ` re going to probably give him a consolation pry, which is going to be rap album.

    CNN Transcript Feb 6, 2006 2006

  • MARCIANO: But his other job also is to kind of pry into health reform, so he talked to President Clinton about the possible roadblocks to health reform.

    CNN Transcript Mar 12, 2009 2009

  • I can just see the edge and I kind of pry the frame apart and slide it out.

    Asimov's Science Fiction 2004

  • "We've got to get some kind of pry and pry it up," announced Jack.

    The Rover Boys on Snowshoe Island or, The Old Lumberman's Treasure Box Edward Stratemeyer 1896

  • No; she had not the slightest idea; it was not her business to "pry" and Mrs. Wick closed her bloodless lips with virtuous severity.

    Will Warburton George Gissing 1880

  • I know you aren't supposed to use any kind of pry bar etc (not that it would fit anyway).

    NASIOC 2010

  • After more than 10 years of New York City - the rent, the intensity, the heat, the cold, and the inability to "pry" friends from their apartments - Rob Barber has had enough.

    Boston Phoenix - 2009


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • 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