thorn in one's side

thorn in one's side


  1. a sharp excrescence on a plant, especially a sharp-pointed aborted branch; spine; prickle.
  2. any of various thorny shrubs or trees, especially the hawthorns belonging to the genus Crataegus, of the rose family.
  3. the wood of any of these trees.
  4. a runic character (þ), borrowed into the Latin alphabet and representing the initial th sounds in thin and they in Old English, or thin in modern Icelandic.
  5. something that wounds, annoys, or causes discomfort.

verb (used with object)

  1. to prick with a thorn; vex.


  1. thorn in one’s side/flesh, a source of continual irritation or suffering: That child is a thorn in the teacher’s side.


  1. the German name for Toruń


  1. a sharp pointed woody extension of a stem or leafCompare prickle (def. 1)
    1. any of various trees or shrubs having thorns, esp the hawthorn
    2. the wood of any of these plants
  2. short for thorn moth
  3. a Germanic character of runic origin Þ used in Old and Modern Icelandic to represent the voiceless dental fricative sound of th, as in thin, bath. Its use in phonetics for the same purpose is now obsoleteSee theta
  4. this same character as used in Old and Middle English as an alternative to edh, but indistinguishable from it in function or soundCompare edh
  5. zoology any of various sharp spiny parts
  6. a source of irritation (esp in the phrases a thorn in one’s side or flesh)

n.Old English þorn “sharp point on a stem or branch,” earlier “thorny tree or plant,” from Proto-Germanic *thurnuz (cf. Old Saxon thorn, Dutch doorn, Old High German dorn, German Dorn, Old Norse þorn, Gothic þaurnus), from PIE *trnus (cf. Old Church Slavonic trunu “thorn,” Sanskrit trnam “blade of grass,” Greek ternax “stalk of the cactus,” Irish trainin “blade of grass”), from *(s)ter-n- “thorny plant,” from root *ster- “stiff.” Figurative sense of “anything which causes pain” is recorded from early 13c. (thorn in the flesh is from II Cor. xii:7). Also an Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic runic letter (þ), named for the word of which it was the initial.

  1. A short, hard, pointed part of a stem or branch of a woody plant. Compare spine.

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