prick up ears


prick up ears

also prick ears up


  • to start paying attention
  • to begin the process of listening (to someone) intently

Example Sentences

  1. The teacher asked her student to prick up his ears when he kept on disturbing the class with silly jokes.
  2. I tell my husband to prick up his ears when taking down the grocery details for the month else he tends to forget to buy certain important things.
  3. The sales staff was asked to prick up his ears when he could not suggest anything that the client considered buying.
  4. To not prick up your ears when you are working at a call center would mean complete disaster for your career. It is among the most basic requirements of a calling job.


The phrase originates from the animal world where pets like horses and dogs are able to fine tune their hearing by picking their ears up. The first literary use of the phrase was in the year 1626 in the work titled “Essays – On Fame” by Francis Bacon. The phrase is also the title of an English play which has been based on the playwright Joe Orton’s life which enumerated the person’s scandalous reputation and was not entirely connected with the phrase’s meaning.


  • pick up your ears
  • cock an ear


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