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

  • adj. Full of or covered with thorns.
  • adj. Spiny.
  • adj. Painfully controversial; vexatious: a thorny situation; thorny issues.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. having thorns or spines
  • adj. troublesome or vexatious

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Full of thorns or spines; rough with thorns; spiny.
  • adj. Like a thorn or thorns; hence, figuratively, troublesome; vexatious; harassing; perplexing.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Abounding in or covered with thorns; producing thorns; prickly; spiny.
  • Characteristic of or resembling a thorn; sharp; irritating; painful.
  • In zoology, spinous; prickly; echinate.

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

  • adj. bristling with perplexities
  • adj. having or covered with protective barbs or quills or spines or thorns or setae etc.


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • Far more thorny is the question of whether casual sex, or any sex outside marriage, is emotionally harmful.

    Sex, science and statistics Boing Boing

  • "Far more thorny is the question of whether casual sex, or any sex outside marriage, is emotionally harmful."

    Sex, science and statistics Boing Boing

  • Especially interesting will be how Biden may be willing to take on a certain thorny issue, spoken in low whispers now.

    Blogtalk: The Biden Factor - The Caucus Blog -

  • Then there are animals that get tangled up in thorny or spiky vegetation.

    Archive 2006-05-01

  • Up close the island turned out to be covered in thorny scrub and seagulls’ nests.

    Going Coastal

  • There is no situation, however thorny, which is not saved by politeness.

    The Ancient Regime

  • Mr Obama's remarks on trade referred to the thorny issue of China's undervalued currency, with the perceived unfairness of China's trade policies the subject of increasingly strident election campaign rhetoric. - Telegraph online, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph

  • I've sucked down a filthy and delicious* one at a teriyaki joint in Hollywood, and I've loved the cheeseburger hiding between the carnitas and pibil at my local (and truly excellent) reader had found a rose among what one could fairly describe as the thorny situation of a Korean-California fusion lounge, my burger senses started tingling.

    A Hamburger Today

  • The program focused on solo works by composers often labeled "thorny," including the sometimes-brutal Salvatore Sciarrino, the English spectralist Jonathan Harvey, the enigmatic Gyorgy Kurtag and that visionary-by-any-standard Giacinto Scelsi.

    Cellist Frances-Marie Uitti gives virtuoso performance in D.C.

  • I'm frankly stunned that there is any scientific basis to support that notion at all, let alone for it to be "thorny" or not so "clear cut".

    Sex, science and statistics Boing Boing


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