Word Confusion: Prise vs Prize vs Pries

Posted December 10, 2018 by kddidit in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

This Word Confusion started off as prise versus prys, which was really confusing since there is no plural for pry. And who knew that prise and prize could mean the same thing?

All three words (yep, they’re also heterographs) do share one definition in that they lever something out of or from something with force.

Prise is the most limited, as it uses a physical force.

Prize is both physical as well as having an emotional impact. In addition it can be a reward.

As for pries, it can also refer to people sneaking about and pushing their way into your private business…and if that isn’t a type of force, I’ll eat my hat.

Of course, prise and pries do have their own shared confusion…those transposed es and ss. I can’t tell you how many times I had to go back and correct them in this post!

And you may want to check out the difference between “Pride versus Prize“.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Prise Prize Pries
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Oxford Living Dictionaries: prise and pry; Dictionary.com: prize; The Free Dictionary: prize and pry; MacMillan Dictionary: pry

Claw of hammer placed around a nail stuck in a piece of wood

Prising Up a Nail by BlueBudgie is under the CC0 license, via Pixabay.

Cartoon of a girl holding up a prize cup that's bigger than she is

Big Prize Color by Alberto G is under the CC BY 2.0 license, via Flickr.

She literally won the “big” prize.

An old couple prying into a darkened shop window

There Must Be Something Good in Here by Rob! is under the CC BY 2.0 license, via Flickr.

“Who is it that pries in my windows?” she cackled.

Part of Grammar:
Verb, transitive

Third person present verb: prises
Past tense or past participle: prised
Gerund or present participle: prising

Variant spelling: prize

Adjective 1; Noun 1, 2, and 3; Verb, transitive 3, 4

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: prizes
Past tense or past participle: prized
Gerund or present participle: prizing

Variant spelling: prise

Third person present verb for pry

Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun: pry
Third person present verb: pries
Past tense or past participle: pried
Gerund or present participle: prying

Use force in order to move, move apart, or open something

[Prise something out of/from] Obtain something from (someone) with effort or difficulty

[Attrib., especially of something entered in a competition] Having been or likely to be awarded a reward

  • Denoting something for which something of great value is awarded
  • Excellent of its kind
  • Outstanding
  • Complete
  • Utter

A thing given as a reward to the winner of a competition or race or in recognition of another outstanding achievement 1

  • A thing, especially an amount of money or a valuable object, that can be won in a lottery or other game of chance
  • Something of great value that is worth struggling to achieve
  • [Chiefly historical] An enemy ship captured during the course of naval warfare 2

Leverage 3

[Chiefly Southern US] Something used as a lever or for prying

Verb, transitive:
Use force in order to move, move apart, or open something 3

Value extremely highly 4

A tool, as a crowbar, for raising, moving, or opening something by leverage

The leverage exerted

[Often followed by into] To make an impertinent or uninvited inquiry about a private matter, topic, etc.

To force open by levering

[US and Canadian] To extract or obtain with difficulty

Verb, intransitive:
To look or inquire closely, curiously, or impertinently
Enquire too inquisitively into a person’s private affairs

Verb, transitive:
To raise, move, or force something open or away from something

Lever something open/off/away, etc.

To obtain with effort or difficulty

Paula is prising open the door and cursing up a blue streak.

He prised his left leg free.

I tried to prise Joe’s fingers away from the stick.

Using a screwdriver, he prised open the window.

To clean the scallops, prise the shells open with a knife, scraping and loosening from the flat shell.

I tried to prise it apart with a ruler, then I tried using a pair of scissors to try and lever the infernal plastic spindle apart.

The lid of the freezer gave a tiny groan as we prised it open.

Jamie got the loan, though he had to prise it out of the banker.

So I said, “What if I prise a contract out of him for the winter as well, and we all move out there?”

Aye, that Melvin is a prize bull.

Them’re some prize onions, Velma.

It was a prize crossword.

Brown’s results are a prize example of how well organic farming can function.

You must think I’m a prize idiot.

Miriam is quite proud of her prize roses.

The nation’s most prestigious prize for contemporary art.

The grand prize in the drawing.

When do we get the prize money?

Gimme that prize bar, Jimmy Joe.

The prize will be victory in the general election.

Nelson has taken a number of prizes.

Verb, transitive:
The berries were prized for their healing properties.

The bicycle was her most prized possession.

He prized open the antique chest.

Andy, do you have that pry bar handy?

They had to pry the news out of him.

Verb, intransitive:
She pries into my personal life.

She was always prying into the affairs of others.

The press pries and pokes at anyone who might attract the readers’ attention.

Verb, transitive:
He pries his left leg free.

He walks around the house, pries his window open, and crawls in.

She was crazy about water, ultimately, you couldn’t get her away from the ocean unless you pried and pulled her, taking her kicking and screaming!

They reached the window and pried it open together.

Paul always pries the lid off with a spoon.

Ken pries a confession out of the suspect.

Adjective: prize-winning
Noun: prizefight, prizefighter, prizefighting, prizewinner
Noun: prier
History of the Word:
Late 16th century from dialect prise meaning lever, from the Old French prise maening grasp, taking hold.
  1. Middle English the noun is a variant of price; the verb (originally in the sense estimate the value of) is from the Old French pris-, stem of preisier meaning to praise, appraise
  2. Late Middle English from the Old French prise meaning taking, booty, from prendre meaning take.
  3. Late 16th century from dialect prise meaning lever, from the Old French prise maening grasp, taking hold.
  4. From the Old French preisier meaning to praise.
Middle English, in the sense peer inquisitively is of unknown origin.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Satisfy your curiosity about other Word Confusions by exploring the index. You may also want to explore Formatting Tips, Grammar Explanations, and/or the Properly Punctuated.

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Prying Halite Crystals Loose by Alisha Vargas was resized and is under the CC BY 2.0 license, via Flickr. The resized Gold Bars had its background removed and a shadow added; it is under the CC0 license, via pxhere. The surroundings for the figure in Peek were removed; the image is by raulsantosdelacamara and is under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license, via VisualHunt.

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