ban·​shee | \ˈban-(ˌ)shē, ban-ˈshē \

Definition of banshee 

: a female spirit in Gaelic folklore whose appearance or wailing warns a family that one of them will soon die We heard someone screaming like a banshee.

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Did You Know?

In Irish folklore, a "bean sidhe" (literally "woman of fairyland") was not a welcome guest. When she was seen combing her hair or heard wailing beneath a window, it was considered a sign that a family member was about to die. English speakers modified the mournful fairy's Irish name into the modern word banshee - a term we now most often use to evoke her woeful or terrible or earsplitting cry, as in "to scream like a banshee," or attributively, "a banshee wail."

Examples of banshee in a Sentence

I heard someone wailing like a banshee.

Recent Examples on the Web

Disney Enterprises has been seeking new patents for ride technology that could pick a route for your car — or boat or banshee — based on how frightened the guest is. Paul Brinkmann,, "Disney World ride scaring you? New tech could adapt to your mood," 8 Mar. 2018 As a digital clock hit that mark, civil defense alarms screamed like banshees letting the estimated 45,000 in attendance know that the walk was officially underway. Marty Pearl, The Courier-Journal, "Louisville zombie fest runs amok on Bardstown," 27 Aug. 2017 The tunes helpfully explain not only the meaning of the show’s title but also elements of Irish folklore like leprechauns, banshees and rainbows. Laurel Graeber, New York Times, "7 Things to Do With Your Kids in NYC This Weekend," 15 Mar. 2018 During his heyday, Halford's banshee-scream abilities set him apart from other vocalists in aggressive, metallic rock. Bob Kostanczuk, Post-Tribune, "Judas Priest still brandishes 'Firepower' in heavy metal," 29 Mar. 2018 The sounds are primal and ethereal; rooted in nature yet otherworldly, as if banshees are conniving with angels. Jeffrey Fleishman,, "Voices of the City: Experimental vocalist Carmina Escobar uses her voice to explore herself and others," 29 Mar. 2018 The hosts of the ABC cooking and lifestyle show were toting banshees on their shoulders. Lauren Delgado,, "Banshees, chicken and dancing as 'Chew' hosts put on a show at Epcot Food & Wine Festival," 5 Oct. 2017 People have claimed to hear wails of banshees and see ghostly hell hounds and apparitions of Confederate soldiers., "The best-known ghost tale from each Alabama county," 25 Oct. 2017 Inside me everything is lightening bolts and banshee wails and chaos. Joanna Petrone, Longreads, "Pregnant, then Ruptured," 18 Aug. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'banshee.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of banshee

1771, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for banshee

Irish bean sídhe & Scottish Gaelic bean sìth, literally, woman of fairyland

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Statistics for banshee

Last Updated

20 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for banshee

The first known use of banshee was in 1771

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English Language Learners Definition of banshee

: a female spirit in Irish and Scottish stories who cries loudly to warn people that someone is going to die soon

More from Merriam-Webster on banshee

See words that rhyme with banshee Encyclopedia article about banshee

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