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harpoon

[hahr-poon]
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noun
  1. 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.
  2. (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.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to strike, catch, or kill with or as if with a harpoon.
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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. 2018

Examples from the Web for harpooner

Historical Examples

  • Simpson, the harpooner, seized it and carried it to the doctor.

    The Voyages and Adventures of Captain Hatteras

    Jules Verne

  • In his youth he attained the rank of harpooner in Peterhead whalers.

  • The harpooner, Simpson, picked it up and brought it to its owner.

  • 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


British Dictionary definitions for harpooner

harpoon

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

Word Origin

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 harpooner

harpoon

v.

1774, from harpoon (n.). Related: Harpooned; harpooning. For agent-noun forms, harpooner is from 1726; harpooneer from 1610s.

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harpoon

n.

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper