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90s Slang You Should Know


[hahr-poon] /hɑrˈpun/
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.
verb (used with object)
to strike, catch, or kill with or as if with a harpoon.
Origin of harpoon
1590-1600; < Dutch harpoenOld French harpon a clasp, brooch, equivalent to harp- (< Latin harpē < Greek: hook) + -on diminutive suffix
Related forms
harpooner, noun
harpoonlike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for harpoon
Historical Examples
  • It had seized the shaft of the harpoon, which had broken in two, and was endeavouring to bite through the rope.

    Adventures in Africa W.H.G. Kingston
  • Gets harpooned, rubs the harpoon into himself, and slays himself.

  • Thus it facilitated the separation of the harpoon head from the unang.

    The Central Eskimo Franz Boas
  • Simply the circumstance of his having held on to the harpoon.

    The Ocean Waifs Mayne Reid
  • As soon as the first seals are caught with the harpoon the deer skins are prepared.

    The Central Eskimo Franz Boas
  • The order when the harpooner has thrown his harpoon into the whale.

    The Sailor's Word-Book William Henry Smyth
  • Both these specimens show perforations at the lower end of the harpoon head which 491 are not found in the modern ones.

    The Central Eskimo Franz Boas
  • She wounded a reindeer with the harpoon and the animal soon died.

    The Later Cave-Men Katharine Elizabeth Dopp
  • The harpoon had taken the barracuda near the tail, fortunately hitting the spine.

    The Wailing Octopus Harold Leland Goodwin
  • It took a long while to make a harpoon with many beautiful barbs.

    The Later Cave-Men Katharine Elizabeth Dopp
British Dictionary definitions for harpoon


  1. a barbed missile attached to a long cord and hurled or fired from a gun when hunting whales, etc
  2. (as modifier): a harpoon gun
(transitive) to spear with or as if with a harpoon
Derived Forms
harpooner, harpooneer, noun
harpoon-like, adjective
Word Origin
C17: probably from Dutch harpoen, from Old French harpon clasp, from harper to seize, perhaps of Scandinavian origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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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.


1774, from harpoon (n.). Related: Harpooned; harpooning. For agent-noun forms, harpooner is from 1726; harpooneer from 1610s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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