• synonyms


noun, plural Har·pies.
  1. Classical Mythology. a ravenous, filthy monster having a woman's head and a bird's body.
  2. (lowercase) a scolding, nagging, bad-tempered woman; shrew.
  3. (lowercase) a greedy, predatory person.
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Origin of Harpy

< Latin Harpȳia, singular of Harpȳiae < Greek Hárpȳiai (plural), literally, snatchers, akin to harpázein to snatch away
Related formsharp·y·like, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for harpies

shrew, vixen, virago, nag, hag, swindler, shark, Shylock, Xanthippe

Examples from the Web for harpies

Historical Examples of harpies

  • Harpies of this ilk are the bane of sight-seeing all the world over.

    The Confessions of a Caricaturist, Vol 2 (of 2)

    Harry Furniss

  • At present nobody can save her from the hands of these harpies.

    The Home

    Fredrika Bremer

  • What boys, then, owed money to these harpies as well as Ernest?

  • This stranger was Astolpho, who drove the harpies to Cocy´tus.

  • A moment or two afterwards the harpies had been upon him, and then he had gone off in his anger.

    Miss Mackenzie

    Anthony Trollope

British Dictionary definitions for harpies


noun plural -pies
  1. a cruel grasping woman
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Word Origin for harpy

C16: from Latin Harpyia, from Greek Harpuiai the Harpies, literally: snatchers, from harpazein to seize


noun plural -pies
  1. Greek myth a ravenous creature with a woman's head and trunk and a bird's wings and claws
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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 harpies



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]
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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

harpies in Culture


Vicious winged beings in classical mythology, often depicted as birds with women's faces. In the story of Jason, they steal or spoil an old blind man's food, leaving a terrible odor behind them.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.