Word of the Day – Preen

Word of the Day : May 22, 2020


verb PREEN


  • of a bird : to groom with the bill especially by rearranging the barbs and barbules of the feathers and by distributing oil from the uropygial gland 
  • to dress or smooth (oneself) up : primp
  • to pride or congratulate (oneself) on an achievement
  • to make oneself sleek
  • to behave or speak with obvious pride or self-satisfaction

Did you know?

Preen hatched in 14th-century Middle English, and early on it displayed various spelling forms, including prenenprayneprene, and preyne. The word traces to Anglo-French puroindre, or proindre, linking pur-, meaning “thoroughly,” with uindreoindre, meaning “to anoint or rub.” One of the first writers known to apply preen to the human act of primping was Geoffrey Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales. Centuries later (sometime during the late 19th century), the prideful meaning of preen hatched, joining another bird-related word, plume, which was being used with the meaning “to pride or congratulate (oneself)” from the first half of the 17th century.


“Adding a water source to your yard also will attract birds, providing not only drinking water for them but a place to wash their feathers and preen.” — Joan Morris, The Mercury News (San Jose, California), 13 Apr. 2020

“We keep tight control over our [Instagram] accounts’ aesthetics, down to the color scheme…. A select few follow the lead of celebrities who log on to publicize their lavish lives to millions, turning Instagram into a place to preen and present a reality far above the mundane.” — Diti Kohli, The Boston Globe, 8 Apr. 2020

Merriam-Webster Word of the Day