a barbed, spearlike missile attached to a rope, and thrown by hand or shot from a gun, used for killing and capturing whales and large fish.
(initial capital letter) Military. a jet-powered, radar-guided U.S. Navy cruise missile with a high explosive warhead designed for use against surface ships and launchable from a surface vessel, submerged submarine, or aircraft.

verb (used with object)

to strike, catch, or kill with or as if with a harpoon.

Nearby words

  1. harpers ferry,
  2. harpies,
  3. harping,
  4. harpings,
  5. harpist,
  6. harpoon gun,
  7. harpsichord,
  8. harpy,
  9. harpy eagle,
  10. harquebus

Origin of harpoon

1590–1600; < Dutch harpoenOld French harpon a clasp, brooch, equivalent to harp- (< Latin harpē < Greek: hook) + -on diminutive suffix

Related formshar·poon·er, nounhar·poon·like, adjective

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for harpoon

British Dictionary definitions for harpoon



  1. a barbed missile attached to a long cord and hurled or fired from a gun when hunting whales, etc
  2. (as modifier)a harpoon gun


(tr) to spear with or as if with a harpoon
Derived Formsharpooner or harpooneer, nounharpoon-like, adjective

Word Origin for harpoon

C17: probably from Dutch harpoen, from Old French harpon clasp, from harper to seize, perhaps of Scandinavian 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

Word Origin and History for harpoon
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper