Also found in: Thesaurus, Medical, Idioms, Encyclopedia.
Related to preys: predaceous


victimizes: preys upon the poor
Not to be confused with:
praise – glorify, exalt; acclamation, approbation, compliment; laud: Her performance received praise from all the critics.
prays – makes a fervent request; beseeches; implores; offers a prayer to a deity: prays for guidance
Abused, Confused, & Misused Words by Mary Embree Copyright © 2007, 2013 by Mary Embree


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.
3. Archaic
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 Indo-European roots.]

prey′er n.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
A corollary of the highest importance may be deduced from the foregoing remarks, namely, that the structure of every organic being is related, in the most essential yet often hidden manner, to that of all other organic beings, with which it comes into competition for food or residence, or from which it has to escape, or on which it preys. This is obvious in the structure of the teeth and talons of the tiger; and in that of the legs and claws of the parasite which clings to the hair on the tiger's body.
"If it be The Black Wolf," whispered Father Claude to the boy, "no worse fate could befall us for he preys ever upon the clergy, and when drunk as he now is, he murders his victims.
Verily, unto such a spirit it is preying, and the work of a beast of prey.
He had no intention to remain there inactive--a prey to hunger and thirst.
The wind, now, was blowing gently between him and his intended prey. He had come a long way in search of man, for even in his youth he had tasted human flesh and while it was poor stuff by comparison with eland and zebra it was less difficult to kill.
It is monstrous that for no offence but the wish to produce something beautiful, and the mistake of his powers in that direction, a writer should become the prey of some ferocious wit, and that his tormentor should achieve credit by his lightness and ease in rending his prey; it is shocking to think how alluring and depraving the fact is to the young reader emulous of such credit, and eager to achieve it.
Crouching beside the brook, I waited until one of the diminutive purple whales rose to nibble at the long grasses which overhung the water, and then, like the beast of prey that man really is, I sprang upon my victim, appeasing my hunger while he yet wriggled to escape.
Several had already fallen prey to old Sabor, and because the jungle was so infested with these fierce and bloodthirsty cats, and with lions and leopards, the ebony warriors hesitated to trust themselves far from the safety of their palisades.
Then silence as the huge, repulsive shapes covered the bodies of their victims and scores of sucking mouths fastened themselves to the flesh of their prey.
As Taglat struggled with the bonds which secured the ankles and wrists of his captive, the great lion that eyed the two from behind a nearby clump of bushes wormed closer to his intended prey.
He had no intention of being robbed of his prey. Blustering and storming, he ordered the people back to their huts, at the same time directing two of his warriors to confine me in a dugout in one of the trenches close to his own shelter.
He welcomed anything that would occupy his time and his mind beyond the filling of his belly and the gloomy thoughts to which he fell prey the moment that he became idle.