ban·​shee | \ ˈban-(ˌ)shē How to pronounce banshee (audio) , ban-ˈshē How to pronounce banshee (audio) \

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 Devastated, Fi sets off after the banshee and asks the creature to reconsider her grandfather’s fate. Ashley Wolfgang, Vulture, "10 Essential Episodes of So Weird, the Paranormal Show Too Dark for Disney Channel," 1 Feb. 2021 With its banshee call, dark eyes, and bright white face, a barn owl could pass for a winged ghost, moving silently against the night sky. National Geographic, "Barn owl," 31 Oct. 2020 Somewhere in the night a train whistle droned like a banshee heralding our mundane doom. Michael Deagler, Harper's Magazine, "New Poets," 27 Oct. 2020 The fog was endless; the weather, a banshee; the isolation, extreme. Sarah Gilman, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Alaskan Island That Humans Can’t Conquer," 7 Oct. 2020 Both Jemmas widen their eyes in mock terror as a banshee-screech of audio feedback begins to wail. Elizabeth Horkley, The Atlantic, "The First Great ‘Quarantine Horror’ Movie Has Arrived," 19 Aug. 2020 Marla advises that no one listens to a screaming banshee telling them to clean. Karina Bland, azcentral, "Summer inspires a cleaning binge, freeing me of clutter and clothes that taunt me," 25 June 2019 The magic starts with the engine, a supercharged 5.2L V-8 that can howl like a banshee but leaves the cabin quiet enough for conversation at normal levels. Mark Phelan,, "Auto review: 760-horsepower 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 strikes like lightning," 1 Nov. 2019 Howling on the outside, quiet on the inside The magic starts with the engine, a supercharged 5.2L V8 that can howl like a banshee but leaves the cabin quiet enough for conversation at normal levels. Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press, "760-horsepower 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 strikes like lightning," 29 Oct. 2019

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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Time Traveler for banshee

Time Traveler

The first known use of banshee was in 1771

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Last Updated

18 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Banshee.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for banshee



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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for banshee Encyclopedia article about banshee

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