noun, plural gad·flies.
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Words nearby gadfly
What does gadfly mean?
A gadfly is a person who’s always hanging around and annoying people with criticism, demands, and questions. Basically, the kind of person you want to shoo away like a biting insect. Speaking of which …
Example: Don’t mind him—he’s just a gadfly who comes to every council meeting to request that the town pay to put a trampoline park in his backyard.
Where does gadfly come from?
The first records of gadfly come from the late 1500s, in reference to the biting fly. The gad part comes from a name for a stick used to poke or prod cattle (also known as a goad or cattle prod). Around the 1600s, gadfly started to be used in figurative ways, including to mean “a social butterfly.”
Today, the most common use of gadfly is in reference to an annoying person who pesters people with frivolous requests or tries to rope them into their schemes. It’s a good metaphor: literal gadflies are notorious for biting and annoying cattle and other barnyard animals. They’re mostly harmless, but they’re relentless—they keep biting and biting because there’s not much the animals can do to shoo them away.
The same goes for figurative gadflies. They’re the kind of people who relentlessly pepper you with questions, demands, even insults. Local government meetings are known for drawing gadflies—the people who are always there issuing criticisms and making unreasonable requests, often with the intention of provoking government officials. (Sometimes, though, the word may be self-applied or applied to people trying to hold officials accountable.) A lot of TV sitcoms have a gadfly character—the one who’s always hanging around and annoying people.
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How is gadfly used in real life?
Gadfly is most commonly used in its figurative sense, and it’s almost always used negatively.
I worked in Columbus for 13yrs and remember Rusty Houser as a political gadfly who always complained at city council meetings. #wsbtv
— Richard Elliot (@RElliotWSB) July 24, 2015
Two political gadflies, Stephen Bannon and Guo Wengui, have a common, if overly grand, objective: bringing about the demise of the Chinese Communist Party. https://t.co/PEPkUupu8j
— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) December 4, 2018
My knee looks like the map of America – stupid gadfly…
— Swans cookie @AC:NH fun (@HaruspexArtemy) July 3, 2013
Try using gadfly!
Which of the following terms best describes someone who’s considered a gadfly?
D. low maintenance
Example sentences from the Web for gadfly
I asked Child whether he felt a bond with me, based on the picture for my debut novel, The Year of the Gadfly.
But when I said that Gadfly included vicious bullying and teen suicide, he changed tack.
If one goes by the gadfly nature of the Internet cycle these days, the Wells-Fieri fight will likely be brief.Guy Fieri Battles Scathing New York Times Review by Pete Wells|Katie Baker|November 16, 2012|DAILY BEAST
Her debut novel, The Year of the Gadfly, will be published by Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt in May.Great Weekend Reads: 4 New Novels, November 13, 2011|Susan Salter Reynolds, Christopher Byrd, John Wilwol, Jennifer Miller|November 13, 2011|DAILY BEAST
The lantern of the night-watchman appeared at the other end of the street, and the Gadfly turned down a narrow, crooked alley.
It was an impassioned defence of Montanelli against the Gadfly's slanderous imputations.
"Your E-eminence was always f-f-famous for truthfulness," the Gadfly put in bitterly.
The Gadfly rose and walked slowly to the other end of the terrace.
The Gadfly disclaimed all knowledge of the state of feeling in Pisa, explaining that he had been there "only on a holiday."