gadfly

noun
gad·​fly | \ ˈgad-ˌflī How to pronounce gadfly (audio) \

Definition of gadfly

1 : any of various flies (such as a horsefly, botfly, or warble fly) that bite or annoy livestock
2 : a person who stimulates or annoys other people especially by persistent criticism a political gadfly

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The Gadfly of Athens

The history of gadfly starts with gad, which now means "chisel" but which formerly could designate a spike, spear, or rod for goading cattle. Late in the 16th century, gad was joined with fly to designate any of several insects that aggravate livestock. Before too long, we began applying gadfly to people who annoy or provoke others. One of history's most famous gadflies was the philosopher Socrates, who was known for his constant questioning of his fellow Athenians' ethics, misconceptions, and assumptions. In his Apology, Plato describes Socrates' characterization of Athens as a large and sluggish horse and of Socrates himself as the fly that bites and rouses it. Many translations use gadfly in this portion of the Apology, and Socrates is sometimes referred to as the "gadfly of Athens."

Examples of gadfly in a Sentence

a loud sports commentator who was a tactless gadfly during post-game interviews with the losing team

Recent Examples on the Web

As time and circumstance changed, Mr. Sanders gradually evolved from a marginalized gadfly in the House to a reliable Democratic vote in the most insider-y club in Washington, the United States Senate. Glenn Thrush, New York Times, "Outsider or Insider? How Bernie Sanders Learned to Walk the Line," 6 July 2019 Sanders’s ideology is the product of the winding circumstances of his long career, tracing an unlikely trajectory from radical New England gadfly to U.S. senator. Matthew Zeitlin, The New Republic, "Bernie’s Red Vermont," 13 June 2019 However, Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has become something of a gadfly for the firms. Sy Mukherjee, Fortune, "A Holdout on the CVS-Aetna Deal: Brainstorm Health," 4 June 2019 The website collaborated with top media organizations, and for years, Mr. Assange reveled in his status as an anti-U.S. gadfly and proponent of radical government transparency. Aruna Viswanatha, WSJ, "WikiLeaks Founder Arrested, Charged With Computer-Hacking Conspiracy," 11 Apr. 2019 Poeppel is more than a gadfly attacking the status quo: Recently, his laboratory used real-world behavior to guide the design of a brain-activity study that led to a surprising discovery in the neuroscience of speech. Quanta Magazine, "How Brain Waves Surf Sound Waves to Process Speech," 22 May 2018 Such arguments should not convince a global audience, however, given Greenwald’s history as an equal opportunity anti-establishment gadfly. Andre Pagliarini, The New Republic, "The Conspiracy to Discredit Brazil’s Left," 10 June 2019 Maybe the local gadflies would call you up, give you a tip here or there. Eric Johnson, Recode, "Social media makes us angry and unfocused. Is email the answer?," 6 Sep. 2018 There not just going to go after some gadfly, there has to be a there there. Eric Johnson, Recode, "How to get a job in venture capital," 26 Aug. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gadfly.' 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 gadfly

1569, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for gadfly

gad entry 1 + fly entry 4

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Dictionary Entries near gadfly

gaddi

Gaddi

gade

gadfly

gadge

gadget

gadgeteer

Statistics for gadfly

Last Updated

12 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for gadfly

The first known use of gadfly was in 1569

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More Definitions for gadfly

gadfly

noun

Financial Definition of gadfly

What It Is

A gadfly is a shareholder who publicly criticizes a company's executives at the annual shareholders meeting.

How It Works

The term gets its name from the insect, which bites and annoys animals (usually livestock).

There are many famous gadflies, but one of the most notable was Evelyn Y. Davis, who spent 40 years confronting managers at annual meetings regarding their compensation and performance. Sometimes she wore costumes and bathing suits in the meetings to get attention. In one instance, she badgered the board of Bristol-Myers Squibb to change its corporate charter to require annual elections for all board members. She was able to get Dow Jones and a real estate firm to follow suit as well. In 2003, she made more than 50 proposals at various companies, including (but not limited to) AT&T, DuPont, Ford, and JPMorgan.

Why It Matters

Gadflies are annoying to management, but they are useful to the rest of us. They often draw attention to problems that others may have overlooked, and they can encourage action from other shareholders. Their courage to stand up and dissent is notable if not entertaining at times.

Source: Investing Answers

gadfly

noun

English Language Learners Definition of gadfly

: someone who annoys people by being very critical

gadfly

noun
gad·​fly | \ ˈgad-ˌflī How to pronounce gadfly (audio) \
plural gadflies

Kids Definition of gadfly

1 : a large biting fly
2 : a person who annoys others especially with constant criticism

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gadfly

noun
gad·​fly | \ ˈgad-ˌflī How to pronounce gadfly (audio) \
plural gadflies

Medical Definition of gadfly

: any of various flies (as a horsefly, botfly, or warble fly) that bite or annoy livestock

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More from Merriam-Webster on gadfly

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with gadfly

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gadfly

Spanish Central: Translation of gadfly

Nglish: Translation of gadfly for Spanish Speakers

Comments on gadfly

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