banshee

noun
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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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 Docile until riled, Audi’s blistering banshee really gets up on its hind legs, capable of going toe-to-toe with just about anything made for real-world driving. Robert Ross, Robb Report, 1 June 2022 Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O, who details her evolution from a shy Jersey girl playing acoustic guitar at open mic nights into a howling banshee flinging herself recklessly across club stages. Andrew Barker, Variety, 24 Jan. 2022 This bluesy banshee sounded like no other white man in rock and roll. James Wood, The New Yorker, 24 Jan. 2022 This will break the spell of the banshee’s hold and allow the people to emerge from a victim mindset. Thomas Lim, Forbes, 30 Aug. 2021 On Sunday, the airfield was a site of constant activity, with queues of dark-gray U.S. military transport aircraft and the banshee scream of Qatari Air Force Rafale jets streaking into the distance. Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times, 22 Aug. 2021 She was accused of hitching her star to a white man, John Lennon, and of breaking up the Beatles — and, by proxy, undermining pop as a whole, its giddy sanctity endangered by this wailing banshee. New York Times, 11 Aug. 2021 It's rated at 195 horsepower, and that power comes at a banshee-screaming 8000 rpm—just 400 rpm short of the redline. John Pearley Huffman, Car and Driver, 12 May 2021 But Walter resisted the reflex to play Evelyn as a B-movie banshee, or a pathetic patsy of the feminist movement the film caricatures so floridly. Washington Post, 26 Mar. 2021 See More

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.

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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The first known use of banshee was in 1771

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Statistics for banshee

Last Updated

6 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Banshee.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/banshee. Accessed 3 Jul. 2022.

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