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From Middle English bristil, brustel, diminutive of brust, from Old English byrst, from Proto-Germanic *burstiz (compare Dutch borstel, German Borste (boar's bristle), Icelandic burst), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰr̥stís (compare Middle Irish brostaid (to goad, spur), Latin fastīgium (top), Polish barszcz (hogweed)), equivalent to brust +‎ -le.


  • IPA(key): /ˈbɹɪs.l̩/
  • (dated, rural folk speech of New England and Upstate New York) IPA(key): /ˈbɹʌs.l̩/[1]
  • Rhymes: -ɪsəl


bristle (plural bristles)

  1. A stiff or coarse hair.
    the bristles of a pig
  2. The hair or straws that make up a brush, broom, or similar item.

Derived termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


bristle (third-person singular simple present bristles, present participle bristling, simple past and past participle bristled)

  1. To rise or stand erect, like bristles.
    • Sir Walter Scott
      His hair did bristle upon his head.
  2. To appear as if covered with bristles; to have standing, thick and erect, like bristles.
    • Thackeray
      the hill of La Haye Sainte bristling with ten thousand bayonets
    • Macaulay
      ports bristling with thousands of masts
  3. To be on one's guard or raise one's defenses; to react with fear, suspicion, or distance.
    • Shakespeare
      Now for the bare-picked bone of majesty / Doth dogged war bristle his angry crest.
    • 2013 June 22, “Engineers of a different kind”, in The Economist, volume 407, number 8841, page 70:
      Private-equity nabobs bristle at being dubbed mere financiers. Piling debt onto companies’ balance-sheets is only a small part of what leveraged buy-outs are about, they insist. Improving the workings of the businesses they take over is just as core to their calling, if not more so. Much of their pleading is public-relations bluster.
    The employees bristled at the prospect of working through the holidays.
  4. To fix a bristle to.
    to bristle a thread

Derived termsEdit



  1. ^ Hans Kurath and Raven Ioor McDavid (1961). The pronunciation of English in the Atlantic States: based upon the collections of the linguistic atlas of the Eastern United States. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, p. 130.