[ hahr-poon ]
See synonyms for harpoon on Thesaurus.com
  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. Harpoon, 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)
  1. to strike, catch, or kill with or as if with a harpoon.

Origin of harpoon

First recorded in 1590–1600; from Dutch harpoen, ultimately derived from Old French harpon “a clasp, brooch,” equivalent to harp- (from Latin harpē, from Greek: “hook”) + -on diminutive suffix

Other words from harpoon

  • har·poon·er, noun
  • har·poon·like, adjective

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use harpoon in a sentence

  • They guarded their herds so carefully that the Cave-men could scarcely get near enough to hit them with their harpoons.

    The Later Cave-Men | Katharine Elizabeth Dopp
  • Think of the wild horses during the first few minutes after the men threw their harpoons.

    The Later Cave-Men | Katharine Elizabeth Dopp
  • Fleetfoot told all he knew about the use of spears and harpoons, but he scarcely knew himself how he had thrown with such force.

    The Later Cave-Men | Katharine Elizabeth Dopp
  • The older men watched as Fleetfoot showed the young men how he threw spears and harpoons.

    The Later Cave-Men | Katharine Elizabeth Dopp
  • Kamelillo waded in, and looked at the harpoons, and shook his head, for he knew the laws and rights of the trade.

    The Belted Seas | Arthur Colton

British Dictionary definitions for harpoon


/ (hɑːˈpuːn) /

    • a barbed missile attached to a long cord and hurled or fired from a gun when hunting whales, etc

    • (as modifier): a harpoon gun

  1. (tr) to spear with or as if with a harpoon

Origin of harpoon

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

Derived forms of harpoon

  • harpooner or harpooneer, noun
  • harpoon-like, adjective

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