1. one of the short, stiff, coarse hairs of certain animals, especially hogs, used extensively in making brushes.
  2. anything resembling these hairs.

verb (used without object), bris·tled, bris·tling.

  1. to stand or rise stiffly, like bristles.
  2. to erect the bristles, as an irritated animal (often followed by up): The hog bristled up.
  3. to become rigid with anger or irritation: The man bristled when I asked him to move.
  4. to be thickly set or filled with something suggestive of bristles: The plain bristled with bayonets. The project bristled with difficulties.
  5. to be visibly roused or stirred (usually followed by up).

verb (used with object), bris·tled, bris·tling.

  1. to erect like bristles: The rooster bristled his crest.
  2. to furnish with a bristle or bristles.
  3. to make bristly.


  1. any short stiff hair of an animal or plant
  2. something resembling these hairtoothbrush bristle


  1. (when intr , often foll by up) to stand up or cause to stand up like bristlesthe angry cat’s fur bristled
  2. (intr sometimes foll by up) to show anger, indignation, etcshe bristled at the suggestion
  3. (intr) to be thickly covered or setthe target bristled with arrows
  4. (intr) to be in a state of agitation or movementthe office was bristling with activity
  5. (tr) to provide with a bristle or bristles

Old English byrst “bristle,” with metathesis of -r-, from Proto-Germanic *bursti- (cf. Middle Dutch borstel, German borste), from PIE *bhrsti- from root *bhars- “point, bristle” (cf. Sanskrit bhrstih “point, spike”). With -el, diminutive suffix.


c.1200 (implied in past participle adjective bristled) “set or covered with bristles,” from bristle (n.). Meaning “become angry or excited” is 1540s, from the way animals show fight. Related: Bristling.

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