What is the difference between prodding and poking? According to the Oxford Advanced Learners' Dictionary, their senses are almost the same.

Prod- to push sb/sth finger or with a pointed object

Poke- to quickly push your fingers or another object into sb/sth

But I've found sentences where both prod and poke were used together. For example, He was looking at her closely through his half-moon spectacles, his long fingers gently prodding and poking.

  • Please add some definitions that you found. Also example sentences as you mention. – user3169 Dec 22 '15 at 2:45
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    Poke is more friendly, and often is a more "human" action. I would poke my friend. I would prod cattle. – Alex K Dec 22 '15 at 2:46
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    I agree that this question could be improved with more examples and more context. That said, three close votes in 20 minutes for a relatively new user (who has only visited this site four times) seems a bit harsh, especially since this question is answerable with a little bit of thought. As a community, I think we could prod and poke a little bit more gently here. – J.R. Dec 22 '15 at 3:02
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    I agree; this seems like the kind of question that could be answered by looking at the dictionary, but that would only leave the reader confused why he or she often sees both words used together when they seem to mean the same thing. It's a valid question. – stangdon Dec 22 '15 at 3:39
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    Generally, a poke is all in one movement. You move in, make contact and move out. In a prod, you move in, make contact, dig in a little, then move out. A prod in a prolonged poke. – lurker Dec 22 '15 at 4:26

They may have been used together, not because their meanings are different, but because their meanings are very similar, so the words either reinforce or complement each other.

You'll find these every now and then in English, with the paired-up words often beginning with the same letter. Some common examples include:

  • vigor and vim
  • short and sweet
  • pots and pans
  • trials and tribulations
  • zig and zag

In fact, words pairs like these even have a name: Siamese twins. You can read about them in Wikipedia.

So, it could be that the words are used together by design for emphasis, even though the writer could just use one or the other.


They are sometimes interchangeable. In my opinion, the only difference is that "poke" refers to a very specific action, which is when you push someone or something with the tip of a sharp object. If you jab someone with your finger, you are poking them.

Prodding can be more gentle. It could be pushing someone with your whole hand instead of just your finger.

They are often interchangeable, but there are certain times when I would only one or the other.

For example, "the nurse poked me with the needle" only makes sense with "poke."

Also, "I prodded the cat off the table" is more accurate than "I poked the cat off the table," which to me would mean that I pushed one finger into the cat until it left the table. More likely, I gently pushed (prodded) the cat.

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