: 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.

Did you know?

In Irish folklore, a bean sídhe (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, as in "a banshee wail."

Examples of banshee in a Sentence

I heard someone wailing like a banshee.
Recent Examples on the Web Both center on one of the genre’s most reliable tropes: mothers who either turn into monsters or have been banshees from hell from the very beginning. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, 22 Apr. 2023 The ride’s personal, stationary-bike-like vehicles vibrate to mimic the movements of an animal — this is my banshee — and riders soar among Pandora’s floating mountains and through waterfalls, all of it cresting in the final act when the sounds of nature give way to a comforting musical score. Todd Martens, Los Angeles Times, 18 Nov. 2022 Claire calls herself a banshee, a dirt bag. Hillary Kelly, Los Angeles Times, 30 Sep. 2021 The wind was a banshee. Joseph Hernandez, Chicago Tribune, 15 Mar. 2023 Which banshee will knock the shoes off Marcel the Shell? Katie Reul, Variety, 25 Feb. 2023 Are there really banshees in Inisherin? Erik Maza, Town & Country, 29 Mar. 2023 Three species of bats inhabit the castle, and supernatural events, including the appearance of the gamekeeper’s ghost and the wail of a banshee, have been reported. Patricia Doherty, Travel + Leisure, 24 Mar. 2023 Will Files, supervising sound editor/designer on The Batman, wanted the Batmobile to feel almost like a banshee or an animal. Carolyn Giardina, The Hollywood Reporter, 2 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'banshee.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1771, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of banshee was in 1771


Dictionary Entries Near banshee

Cite this Entry

“Banshee.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


: a female spirit in Gaelic folklore whose wailing warns that a death will occur soon

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

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