Bristly things are spiky or barbed, like a porcupine. When you get an old-fashioned shoe shine, your shoes will be cleaned with a bristly brush.

You can describe a certain type of hair as bristly — if it sticks up in tufts and spikes like a hedgehog's quills. A man's beard stubble is bristly too, and so are spiky bushes and scruffy dogs. Figuratively, if you're bristly, you're cranky and easily irritated: "He spoke carefully, trying not to upset his bristly grandfather."

Definitions of bristly
  1. adjective
    having or covered with protective barbs or quills or spines or thorns or setae etc.
    “a horse with a short bristly mane”
    bristly shrubs”
    synonyms: barbed, barbellate, briary, briery, bristled, burred, burry, prickly, setaceous, setose, spiny, thorny
    (used of plants and animals) furnished with bristles and thorns
  2. adjective
    very irritable
    bristly exchanges between the White House and the press”
    synonyms: prickly, splenetic, waspish
    having an irritable and unpleasant disposition
Word Family

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