- a barbed, spearlike missile attached to a rope, and thrown by hand or shot from a gun, used for killing and capturing whales and large fish.
- (initial capital letter) Military. a jet-powered, radar-guided U.S. Navy cruise missile with a high explosive warhead designed for use against surface ships and launchable from a surface vessel, submerged submarine, or aircraft.
- to strike, catch, or kill with or as if with a harpoon.
Origin of harpoon
Examples from the Web for harpoon
In addition to the harpoon every swordfish fisherman carries a lance.Tales of Fishes
He had not time to get it from the sheath before I had the harpoon through him.The Return of Sherlock Holmes
Arthur Conan Doyle
We supposed that the paddle and the harpoon went with the kayak.Left on Labrador
Charles Asbury Stephens
He had a harpoon and I had a knife and we beat them and took their ship.The Beach of Dreams
H. De Vere Stacpoole
Almost before the harpoon has struck the boat is backed swiftly.From Pole to Pole
Sven Anders Hedin
- a barbed missile attached to a long cord and hurled or fired from a gun when hunting whales, etc
- (as modifier)a harpoon gun
- (tr) to spear with or as if with a harpoon
Word Origin and History for harpoon
1610s, from French harpon, from Old French harpon "cramp iron, clamp, clasp" (described as a mason's tool for fastening stones together), from harper "to grapple, grasp," possibly of Germanic origin, or from Latin harpa- "hook" (cf. harpagonem "grappling hook," from Greek *harpagon, related to harpe "sickle"). Earlier harping-iron (mid-15c.). Sense and spelling perhaps influenced by Dutch (cf. Middle Dutch harpoen) or Basque, the language of the first whaling peoples, who often accompanied English sailors on their early expeditions. Also see -oon.
1774, from harpoon (n.). Related: Harpooned; harpooning. For agent-noun forms, harpooner is from 1726; harpooneer from 1610s.