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
But you run the very real risk of being little more than an interesting gadfly.There’s a Senate Civil War Coming, No Matter Who Wins in November|David Freedlander|October 14, 2014|DAILY BEAST
The result left the Democratic governor, previously best known as a good-government gadfly, with approval ratings in the low 30s.Illinois’s Mitt Romney Takes On Rod Blagojevich’s Successor|Ben Jacobs|March 19, 2014|DAILY BEAST
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.
The right-wing gadfly is on the attack again—but this time she's going after her fellow nutjobs.How Bad Is It? Even Ann Coulter Has Turned On Conservatives|Michelle Cottle|October 15, 2013|DAILY BEAST
The gadfly does not immediately sting you; it begins by buzzing in your ears, and you do not at first know what it is.The Petty Troubles of Married Life, Complete|Honore de Balzac
As I shouldered my load their murmuring voices full of amorous desire stung me like a gadfly.Tramping on Life|Harry Kemp
Then she carried out her revenge by sending an enormous gadfly to torment poor Io, who was still in the form of a heifer.Stories of Old Greece and Rome|Emilie Kip Baker
The trumpeter Gadfly and a number of his relations, besides several Grasshoppers and Bees, were the chief musicians.The Butterfly's Ball|R.M. Ballantyne
She was nagged incessantly by a gadfly of conscience that buzzed in her ears the counsel to tell the police.The Cup of Fury|Rupert Hughes