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[hahr-i-dn] /ˈhɑr ɪ dn/
a scolding, vicious woman; hag; shrew.
Origin of harridan
1690-1700; perhaps alteration of French haridelle thin, worn-out horse, large, gaunt woman (compared with the initial element of haras stud farm, though derivation is unclear)
nag, virago, scold. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for harridan
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I see—old offenders; oh, your humble servant, Mrs. harridan!

  • Ye did not see her, nor know ye if she is old or young, harridan or angel.

    The Fair God Lew Wallace
  • I have been all my days a dead hand at a harridan, I never saw the one yet that could resist me.

  • Though he did call Lady Eardham a harridan, he resolved that he would keep his promise for the following morning.

    Ralph the Heir

    Anthony Trollope
  • She was undeniably impressive, almost formidable, he conceded privately, with a touch of the shrew and harridan.

    A Traveler in Time August Derleth
  • Charles listened dully as the curse was droned, nor was he surprised when the harridan fell, blasted by it.

    The Syndic C.M. Kornbluth
  • It was her keeper who tore her away in the end, cling as she would to Michael, screaming all the while like a harridan.

  • It was an interesting speculation whether in twenty years she would develop into a harridan or a woman of unusual character.

    The Sheriff's Son

    William MacLeod Raine
  • The harridan believed he was making fun of her, and uttering energetical "Der Teufels!"

    Tartarin of Tarascon Alphonse Daudet
British Dictionary definitions for harridan


a scolding old woman; nag
Word Origin
C17: of uncertain origin; perhaps related to French haridelle, literally: broken-down horse; of obscure 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 harridan

1700, "one that is half Whore, half Bawd" ["Dictionary of the Canting Crew"]; "a decayed strumpet" [Johnson], probably from French haridelle "a poore tit, or leane ill-favored jade," [Cotgrave, 1611], in French from 16c., of unknown origin.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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