- 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.
- to strike, catch, or kill with or as if with a harpoon.
Origin of harpoon
Examples from the Web for harpooner
Historical Examples of harpooner
Simpson, the harpooner, seized it and carried it to the doctor.
In his youth he attained the rank of harpooner in Peterhead whalers.The Nigger Of The "Narcissus"
The harpooner, Simpson, picked it up and brought it to its owner.The English at the North Pole
One of them was the coxswain, another the harpooner, while the others sat at the oars.From Pole to Pole
Sven Anders Hedin
The order when the harpooner has thrown his harpoon into the whale.The Sailor's Word-Book
William Henry Smyth
- a barbed missile attached to a long cord and hurled or fired from a gun when hunting whales, etc
- (as modifier)a harpoon gun
- (tr) to spear with or as if with a harpoon
Word Origin for harpoon
1774, from harpoon (n.). Related: Harpooned; harpooning. For agent-noun forms, harpooner is from 1726; harpooneer from 1610s.
1610s, from French harpon, from Old French harpon "cramp iron, clamp, clasp" (described as a mason's tool for fastening stones together), from harper "to grapple, grasp," possibly of Germanic origin, or from Latin harpa- "hook" (cf. harpagonem "grappling hook," from Greek *harpagon, related to harpe "sickle"). Earlier harping-iron (mid-15c.). Sense and spelling perhaps influenced by Dutch (cf. Middle Dutch harpoen) or Basque, the language of the first whaling peoples, who often accompanied English sailors on their early expeditions. Also see -oon.