[huh-ras, har-uhs]

verb (used with object)

to disturb persistently; torment, as with troubles or cares; bother continually; pester; persecute.
to trouble by repeated attacks, incursions, etc., as in war or hostilities; harry; raid.

Origin of harass

1610–20; < French, Middle French harasser to harry, harass, verbal derivative of harace, harache (in phrase courre a la harace pursue), equivalent to hare cry used to urge dogs on (< Frankish *hara here, from this side; compare Old High German hera, Middle Dutch hare) + -asse augmentative or pejorative suffix < Latin -ācea
Related formsha·rass·a·ble, adjectiveha·rass·er, nounha·rass·ing·ly, adverbha·rass·ment, nouno·ver·har·ass, verb (used with object)un·ha·rassed, adjective

Synonyms for harass

1. badger, vex, plague, hector torture. See worry. 2. molest.

Pronunciation note

harass , a 17th-century French borrowing, has traditionally been pronounced [har-uhs] /ˈhær əs/, with stress on the first syllable. A newer pronunciation, [huh-ras] /həˈræs/, has developed in North American (but not British) English. While this newer pronunciation is sometimes criticized by older educated speakers, it has become the more common one in the U.S., especially among younger educated speakers, some of whom have only minimal familiarity with the older form.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for harass

Contemporary Examples of harass

Historical Examples of harass

  • Nor did Casanova allow these questions to harass his mind to-day.

    Casanova's Homecoming

    Arthur Schnitzler

  • Forgive me that I harass you with this catalogue of my misfortunes.

    Mistress Wilding

    Rafael Sabatini

  • The archers were placed in front to harass the enemy attempting to cross.

  • There were no debtors to be harassed, no creditors to harass them.

    In a Little Town

    Rupert Hughes

  • "The Mexicans will do anything to harass the Texans," answered the lieutenant, quietly.

    For the Liberty of Texas

    Edward Stratemeyer

British Dictionary definitions for harass



(tr) to trouble, torment, or confuse by continual persistent attacks, questions, etc
Derived Formsharassed, adjectiveharassing, adjective, nounharassment, noun

Word Origin for harass

C17: from French harasser, variant of Old French harer to set a dog on, of Germanic origin; compare Old High German harēn to cry out
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

Word Origin and History for harass

1610s, from French harasser "tire out, vex," possibly from Old French harer "set a dog on," and perhaps blended with Old French harier "to harry, draw, drag" [Barnhart]. Originally "to lay waste, devastate," sense of "distress" is from 1650s. Related: Harassed; harassing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper