A bristle is a stiff hair — the kind men shave off their face or the kind badgers have all over. Bristle also means to get angry. Tell an animal rights activist you use a badger's bristle shaving brush and you'll get the idea.

The emotional meaning of to bristle comes from the fact that most animal bristles used by man are so-called erectile hairs — the ones that stand up on the neck or along the back of animal when it's angry or surprised. A common word associated with bristle is hackle, another name for such erectile animal hairs. Thus the saying "to get one's hackles up," which is pretty much identical to bristling.

Definitions of bristle
  1. noun
    a stiff hair
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    type of:
    a filamentous projection or process on an organism
  2. noun
    a stiff fiber (coarse hair or filament); natural or synthetic
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    type of:
    fiber, fibre
    a slender and greatly elongated substance capable of being spun into yarn
  3. verb
    have or be thickly covered with or as if with bristles
    bristling leaves”
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    type of:
    feature, have
    have as a feature
  4. verb
    rise up as in fear
    “The dog's fur bristled
    synonyms: stand up, uprise
  5. verb
    react in an offended or angry manner
    “He bristled at her suggestion that he should teach her how to use the program”
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    type of:
    react, respond
    show a response or a reaction to something
  6. verb
    be in a state of movement or action
    “The garden bristled with toddlers”
    synonyms: abound, burst
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    type of:
    feature, have
    have as a feature
Word Family
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