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[hahr-pee] /ˈhɑr pi/
noun, plural Harpies.
Classical Mythology. a ravenous, filthy monster having a woman's head and a bird's body.
(lowercase) a scolding, nagging, bad-tempered woman; shrew.
(lowercase) a greedy, predatory person.
Origin of Harpy
< Latin Harpȳia, singular of Harpȳiae < Greek Hárpȳiai (plural), literally, snatchers, akin to harpázein to snatch away
Related forms
harpylike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for Harpy
Historical Examples
  • Madame Beattie was a familiar name to them, but they had never heard she was a Harpy.

    The Prisoner Alice Brown
  • It was also the day of the man behind the bar, of the gambler, of the Harpy.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service
  • Harpy it might have been, but happy it was not,” he answered with a groan.

    The Three Commanders W.H.G. Kingston
  • Their hands, when they possessed them, were like Harpy claws.

    The House of Pride Jack London
  • One is bound to be courteous to a lady, even though that lady be a Harpy.

  • Law is a bottomless pit; it is a cormorant, a Harpy, that devours everything.

    The History of John Bull John Arbuthnot
  • The yards were squared, and the Harpy soon had steerage way.

    Mr. Midshipman Easy Captain Frederick Marryat
  • Well, Ned,” said Jack, “do you wish yourself on board the Harpy again?

    Mr. Midshipman Easy Captain Frederick Marryat
  • “The Harpy is standing in with a breeze from the offing,” said Gascoigne to Easy.

    Mr. Midshipman Easy Captain Frederick Marryat
  • Colney had escaped his Harpy, and Victor could be called a millionaire and more.

British Dictionary definitions for Harpy


noun (pl) -pies
a cruel grasping woman
Word Origin
C16: from Latin Harpyia, from Greek Harpuiai the Harpies, literally: snatchers, from harpazein to seize


noun (pl) -pies
(Greek myth) a ravenous creature with a woman's head and trunk and a bird's wings and claws
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 Harpy



late 14c., from Old French harpie (14c.), from Greek Harpyia (plural), literally "snatchers," probably related to harpazein "to snatch" (see rapid). Metaphoric extension to "greedy person" is c.1400.

In Homer they are merely personified storm winds, who were believed to have carried off any person that had suddenly disappeared. In Hesiod they are fair-haired and winged maidens who surpass the winds in swiftness, and are called Aello and Ocypete; but in later writers they are represented as disgusting monsters, with heads like maidens, faces pale with hunger, and claws like those of birds. The harpies ministered to the gods as the executors of vengeance. ["American Cyclopædia," 1874]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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