noun, plural Har·pies.

Classical Mythology. a ravenous, filthy monster having a woman's head and a bird's body.
(lowercase) a scolding, nagging, bad-tempered woman; shrew.
(lowercase) a greedy, predatory person.

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. 2019

Related Words for harpy

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

Examples from the Web for harpy

Historical Examples of harpy

  • Madame Beattie was a familiar name to them, but they had never heard she was a harpy.

    The Prisoner

    Alice Brown

  • It was also the day of the man behind the bar, of the gambler, of the harpy.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service

  • Harpy it might have been, but happy it was not,” he answered with a groan.

    The Three Commanders

    W.H.G. Kingston

  • Their hands, when they possessed them, were like harpy claws.

  • One is bound to be courteous to a lady, even though that lady be a harpy.

British Dictionary definitions for harpy


noun plural -pies

a cruel grasping woman

Word Origin for harpy

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


noun plural -pies

Greek myth a ravenous creature with a woman's head and trunk and a bird's wings and claws
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 harpy

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]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper